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Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence [Hardcover]

Katie Campbell
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 July 2009
In the final years of the nineteenth century the crumbling villas abandoned on the hills above Florence proved irresistible to an eccentric colony of English and American expatriates.

After a brilliant introduction this entertaining book features some twenty of these characters, among them Bernard Berenson at I Tatti; the 'cad' Sir Arthur Acton and his fabulously wealthy wife at La Pietra; the bereaved philosopher Charles Strong whose Rockefeller in-laws financed his villa retreat; the cross-dressing English essayist Violet Paget - known to the world as Vernon Lee; the beautiful Serbian Princess Jeanne Ghika who lived in seclusion with her American companion Miss Blood; the eccentric English romance writer known as Ouida; the much-married American heiress Mabel Dodge Luhan and the misanthropic aristocrat Sir Gerge Sitwell.

Art and history formed the main interests of the community with horticulture a close second. The Anglo-Florentines injected new life into Tuscany's decrepit gardens, touring the countryside for inspiration and trawling old libraries for treatises and manuals. Some preferred an anglicised version and smothered their walls with scented climbers, replaced gravel terraces with emerald lawns and stuffed box parterres with bright bedding plants and their orchards with exotic shrubs.

Literary reference abounds throughout this book with Henry James leading the way, but it is the old guide books - Elgood's Italian Gardens, Latham's The Gardens of Italy and books like Georgina Graham's My Tuscan Villa which provide so much evocative material.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711229562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711229563
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 23.4 x 28.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 553,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Campbell's first sentence and a number of later ones contain the word 'intriguing', used in its comparatively recent sense of 'fascinating'. If I seek for one word to describe this book, then that is it. Hers is a witty, charming, informative and well-written study. But, above all, it is an intriguing one. (Spectator)

I heartily recommend the account of the dotty goings-on in the expat community round Florence. It's pretty much the same today. This is an inspiring book. (World of Interiors)

Scholarly as well as wonderfully entertaining, this is an unmissable book. (BBC Gardens Illustrated)

A compelling portrait of the gardens and lives of this eclectic group. (Sunday Telegraph)

Exceptionally well illustrated in the publisher's usual large format. The fancy-dress poses of Anglo-Florentine high society are especially telling, and George Elgood's fine Edwardian watercolours of the gardens evoke nostalgia for a golden age. (Times Literary Supplement)

An entertaining book and a good introduction to a fascinating world… Few writers introduce us to this lively and eccentric community with such gusto. (Mediterranean Garden)

Frances Lincoln is to be congratulated for adding this book to its list of inexpensive, fluently written and generously illustrated garden history books. (Art Newspaper)

Underlines how much this Anglo-American community did to re-animate and re-interpret many of Italy's historic gardens. (Irish Times)

The stories of the eccentric owners are entwined with those of their gardens in a vivid and wide-ranging account. (Irish Garden)

It has wonderful photos and a very good historical text with an apt, witty touch about gardens of great expatriates in and around Florence in the late 19th century… An ideal present for anyone who has bolted to make a garden and a little stir abroad. (Financial Times)

The topic of this book may sound like a niche preoccupation, but in the hands of a perceptive and amusing author it proves irresistible… Like its subject matter, this book is a delightful confection. (Daily Telegraph)

Escapism is what gardeners want in the short, dark days of winter and Paradise of Exiles offers the perfect getaway… Scholarly as well as wonderfully entertaining, this is an unmissable book. (Independent)

Christmas is luxury reading time. Katie Campbell's Paradise of Exiles is exactly that, with wonderful plates and text that makes me want to see the gardens for myself. (Scotsman)

A particularly welcome fireside treat. (Limited Edition, South Worcestershire & Cotswolds)

This is a highly readable book that will engage both the student and the admirer of the Italian garden alike, and shines a valuable spotlight on a little known era of the Italian garden. (Garden Design Journal)

Altogether, a scrupulously researched, well-written and entertaining book. (Garden)

Here's one for all you garden history enthusiasts… if you're looking for the story behind the gardens, a proper insight into their character and charm, then this book has all the details. (Professional Gardener)

About the Author

KATIE CAMPBELL was a journalist and fiction writer before turning to garden history. She lectures widely, has taught on postgraduate and undergraduate courses at Birkbeck, Bristol and Buckingham Universities; she also writes for various publications and leads garden tours. Her most recent, book, Paradise of Exiles, explores the eccentric community of English and American expatriates in late nineteenth century Florence. Earlier garden books include Icons of Twentieth Century Landscape Design, and Policies and Pleasances, A Guide to Scotland’s Gardens.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another World 6 Jan 2010
Attractive well produced book with a lot of information about the people and their gardens . Most useful reference .
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paradise of Exiles - Florence 26 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book - for historians, gardeners and watercolour painters - full of interesting snippets of history, an understanding of the continuous Anglo-Saxon passion for Florence as well as glorious imagery of these fabulous gardens.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining 3 Mar 2013
By Lupo Montegrigio - Published on Amazon.com
More or less excentric, the persons in this highly entertaining book are mesmerising. Most of them posess massive bank accounts allowing them to follow every whim while creating homes in the old villas around Florence. You don't read this book mainly out of horticulturel interest and it doesn't adress design issuses extensively either. It is the line up of personalities that is capturing. They are devoted to the estetics of Italy and the renaissance i particular. Restoring crumbling houses and filling them with objets d'art from the past as well as tending neglected gardens take up most of theire time. But there's always time to gossip and intrigue within the community where everyone knows everyone. The halcyon days end with World War II and a lot of the villas are today hotels and a few are university property. But som are still privately inhabited and still lived in.
The author writes in a language both easy to read and marvellously rich. Most recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Odyssey! 21 Jan 2013
By Susan B. Mccreight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book with fascinating information about some of the important gardens of Florence. Anyone who loves Florence or gardens or both should be intrigued. Katie Campbell writes in a charming way (I've had the good luck to meet her, and she is really charming) that draws the reader in and keeps you there!
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