Sometimes the settings and locations in books can be as captivating as the characters. Here are my favourite books featuring spellbinding gardens. The gardens of these books are places of secrecy, escape and encounters.
The gardens of Manderley in Daphne Du Maurier’s sumptous novel surrounds the English country estate with its own woods and bay by the sea. The descriptions are rich and intricate so that your imagination can almost smell the roses. Kept in ornate splendour, the garden, with its winding drive of high wisteria, is also what gives Manderley an atmosphere of seperation from society and builds what becomes an isolating and entrapped life as the new wife of Mr De Wnter.
Evocative of long summer days the gardens in Ian McEwan’s novel recaptures the golden summer before outbreak of war. For the children and teens the gardens are a place to escape and relax, sunbath and swim in the lake or play in the meadows beyond. The film adaptation also depicts an atmosphere of humid ennui before family disaster.
The Thirteenth Tale
This has been my read of the year, read in bed until dawn. Again the garden is a place of escape where childhood and its games can run free in twins with no discipline, left to there own terrible pleasures. There is a contrast between the topiary gardens and overgrown woods that fester their own family secrets and demise. It is in the gardens, both of the past and present, where mysterious characters are seen playing or singing in the night. This book is fascinating.
Compared to the other novels featured here, the gardens in Vilette are enclosed in narrow alleys and overlooking windows. From those windows the comings and goings of Charlotte Bronte’s semi autobiographical girls school in Brussels can be spied. This is a city garden under lock and key of half seen people at dusk, buried things and where love intrepidly grows.