I have a new obsession. His name is Beverley Nichols. (Yes, he’s a he).
At this point, you may be thinking, “Wow — a memoir about gardening. That sounds about as compelling as a novel about income tax preparation.” But you are only thinking that because you haven’t read them yet.
Trust me when I say that his books are delightful. That is not an adjective I use a lot, by the way, because for a book to be delightful, it has to lighten my spirit. These books — thus far I’ve read the Merry Hall trilogy — have me positively floating with happiness. Written in the 1950s, they deal with Nichols’ Georgian home and its vast gardens, which — when he moved in — were in great need of attention. But the books aren’t just about Nichols’ adventures and misadventures in the soil. They’re about the assorted characters living in the village, about his dear and inimitable gardener Oldfield, about his cats “One” and “Four” (even I, a staunch dog person, found his descriptions of the cats to be totally beguiling. Trust me: this speaks volumes about his skills as a writer).
Best of all, the books have a fabulous voice. Nichols is both sardonic (in that polished way that only the British can really pull off) and unabashedly sentimental. He skewers the foibles of his irritating neighbors but describes the beauty of flowers with gentle reverence. He is not afraid to get emotional at the sight of a perfect lily. Neither am I. I guess that’s why I like him. Plus the books have charming line drawings. (What is it about books with pictures? They are so much more fun to read.)
At any rate, I’m deliriously happy that I stumbled upon these little gems. They make me want to go dig in my own flowerbeds and beautify my own little patch of earth — AFTER I’ve finished reading one more chapter.