Book Reviews: Great British Gardeners by Vanessa Berridge and The Magic of Terry Pratchett by Marc Burrows

I choose to review these two books as both were ones I was very interested in and hope you will be too.  I have been sent the following books to review, I have not paid for them but my words and opinions are my own.

This book was originally published in hardback in 2018 and I kept meaning to buy it.  So when I was offered a copy of the new paperback version to review I was not going to say no.  This is a book covering 450 years of British gardening and it is a comprehensive and enjoyable read.  The book is in chronological order and includes many names you will know and also, I am sure, some you will not.  You would expect to see Humphrey Repton and Capability Brown and should rightly tut at any such book with such a title that did not include them.  I will always enjoy any gardening book that includes John and Jane Loudon so it was delight to find them included.  There were also people in this book I had not heard of such as William Andrews Nesfield and Philip Miller and it was fascinating learning about them.  I should have known about Nesfield as I have been to one of his works: Witley Court.  I always like a book that makes me kick myself a bit where I should have known something.

The book is arranged into sections and with headings such as 'The Early Plantsmen' 'The Flower Garden' 'Classical and Modern' to group the gardeners written about.  It is good to see Rosemary Verey,  and Penelope Hobhouse included, both personal favourites of mine.  Any such book is of course a selection and many people could be included who are not; I noted that only two of the gardeners written about are still living and I did wonder about the criteria for how you decide who is 'great'.  We could all create our own lists and it would be interesting to compare them. I paused a moment when reading this book and reflected on how white our gardening history is when written about and that our current and future is happily more diverse. 

I am so glad I now have this book, it is a fantastic book to dip into and is a rich source of information.  It is the sort of book anyone would love to have as a gift or one to buy for yourself as a treat.

Great British Gardeners by Vanessa Berridge is published by Amberley Publishing and will be available as a paperback from April 15th 2021 
Hang on a minute, I hear you cry, was Terry Pratchett a well known gardener?  What has this got to do with gardening?  Let us not dismiss that The Bromeliad is the name of a plant and the collective name of the Truckers, Diggers, Wings books which were the first books I read of his.  This book does tell us of Terry's love of growing exotic plants.  Apparently Terry used his advance from The Dark Side of the Sun to buy a greenhouse.  Now that fact alone makes this book worthwhile for me as connecting one of my very favourite authors to the garden is job done in my world!

For anyone who knows the books of Mr Pratchett well, this book is sheer joy.  It is really hard to put down once you start reading it.  The author, Marc Burrows, writes for The Guardian and is a stand up comedian.  I enjoy a good biography and this is a very good one.  There is extensive research, clear love of the subject and some good insights and reflections.  Marc writes about Terry's writing process and how his art of writing developed.  Of course, most of us know that sadness of the illness that eventually took Terry's life.  I remember hearing of the diagnosis on the news and being so shocked and saddened by it.  That Terry sought to not let him stop him until it inevitably did so is written about sympathetically with the last chapter being about Terry's ongoing legacy of work.  It is a celebration of his life full of details I knew nothing about and now feel the richer for knowing.  It did, of course, make me wanting to start reading my collection of Pratchett books again.  This will happen.

The Magic of Terry Pratchett by Marc Burrows is published by White Owl/Pen and Sword Books.  Buy it.

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