Book Reviews: Folk Tales from the Garden by Donald Smith and Pure Style in the Garden by Jane Cumberbatch

I am rather a fan of folk stories and have a few books I have acquired over the years.  The skill of storytelling and the passing down of stories through the generations is something I think is very special.  So when I was approached to review Donald Smith's book 'Folktales from the Garden' I quickly said yes.  I have not paid for this book nor have I been paid to write this review.  My words and opinions are as ever my own.  

The stories in the book are from all over Britain and Ireland and the book is linked to the Scottish Storytelling Centre who are a base for the national storytelling network.  I did not know that such a network existed but I am so glad that they do.  

As I read the book, which is organised as a calendar with stories relating to each month of the year, there were some stories I recognised and many I did not.  As with any folk tale, even ones I recognised had some differences in telling from other versions I have known; which I think it part of the joy of storytelling.  

The monthly approach works well, with Donald giving a introductory section to each month.  All the stories turn around the theme of the garden and nature: some relate to flowers, some to seasons and some to bees.  

The book is delightfully illustrated by Annalisa Sallis.  The illustrations have great charm and work well with the stories.

I loved this book, you soon find you cannot put it down as you travel from month to month.  Let me just say that I think my role model is the old lady in the April story of the Tulip Pixies; I have a future to aspire to.

Folk Tales from the Garden by Donald Smith is published by The History Press.  buy it.

Pure Style in the Garden, creating an outdoor haven by Jane Cumberbatch

I was asked if I wanted to review this book, and same as with the other book in this post, I have not paid for it but my words and opinions are my own.

This book is so much more than its title may lead you to believe.  This is not a 'how to design' your garden,  it is a more holistic approach about creating your style and about nurturing yourself and your garden.  Similarly to the book on Folk Tales it is a written around a framework of the gardening year, this time focussing more on seasons than months alone.  It feels like a personal scrapbook filled with notes and diary entries, poems and painting and photographs.  Linking all of these is the advice and guidance on how to create your own style based on Jane's experience.  It feels like a very personal book, it is about Jane and it is Jane who is talking to us about her approach to her garden.

I was grabbed immediately by this book as it features a Foucault quote early on.  It was a quote I did not know but it struck a chord with me, I could identify with it, I was hooked.  Jane's introduction to the book was written last year in the Autumn period of the pandemic.  This makes it a very relevant book but also throughout the messages are not about this Covid period per-se, but how the garden will always nurture and uplift us and keep us going through the difficult times in our lives.
The paintings and the photographs in the book are all by Jane herself, she is clearly very talented.  Threaded through the book is a lot of referenced knowledge.  It is not just Jane's opinions you are reading, she has included information, facts and anecdotes from eclectic sources.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I expected to enjoy it but it was even more enjoyable than I had hoped.  It is a moment of joy in a difficult world.

Pure Style in the Garden by Jane Cumberbatch is published by Pimpernel Press  - you need to buy this book too. 

Stay safe and be kind.

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