This book was originally written around 1946. It tells the story of the creation of the garden, at the country home of the author and journalist, Beverley Nichols. 'Merry Hall', is a real life house, that actually existed. By careful sleuthing, I have managed to discover the identity of the house, now sadly built over. But, the story is enchanting. It begins on an autumn day, as Beverley & a friend, see the house of Beverley's dreams through a copper beech tree. The reader, is always given full reign for their imagination and one can visualise everything, from the reds & golds of the copper beech & the maples, to the 'urns' resting magnificently on their pedestals, homes to 'one' & 'four'. The characters of Oldfield, the irascible old gardener, a legacy from Mr Stebbings time and the irrepressable Gaskin, extraordinary jack of all trades, are printed indelibly on one's mind. Then there are the ladies, Miss Emily - harbouring a secret love for the former Mr Stebbing & all he stood for and Rose Fenton - Mr Nichols hated 'flower arranger'. One can almost see the garden changing, as the work progresses and the seasons pass. The fall of the elms, the clearing out of the 'pond', the development of the kitchen garden and the flower beds, to the lovely fountain [a delight even to even light up Charlie Dimmock's heart]. Not only a delightful read, especially on a cold winters evening, but also a mine of information. Yes, you really can reproduce lilies from their seeds, but mine have yet to grow! I have seen the real 'Merry Hall' and it is much developed now, but parts of the old orchard are still there. I am glad I did not see it, as it was, for the image is held in my mind forever, of that beautiful old house as it must have looked, that autumn day, through the copper beech. A very good and delightful read, even for the non-gardeners. A book that takes one back, to a time of slow days and laziness, when technology meant the latest thing in manual lawn-mowers! Just the thing for our stressed out lives. Highly recommended.
I grabbed this one from the New Books Shelf at the library pretty much because I liked the cover and the dustjacket said something about gardening. Beverley was an English gentleman who wrote popular fiction during the 40's. This one is the first in a series of books he wrote about living in Merry Hall, a run-down Georgian mansion that he bought after the war. I loved this little book, and now I'm going to read the whole trilogy. You should, too! At times you might find him irritating, but isn't that to be expected from an egotistical Englishman writing about himself? Besides, he's very funny in that droll way Englishmen have, and he even has two cats named "One" and "Four." How can you not love that? Here's a bit from it: After breakfast I went along to the music-room, to spend half an hour on the waterfalls. By spending half an hour on the waterfalls, I mean practising the double descending cadenzas in Chopin's Third Scherzo. It is perhaps the most superbly 'pianistic' piece of music ever written; to be able to play it properly must give to any pianist a sense of almost god-like power... a feeling of floating on wings over a sea of roses. I do not feel at all like that when I play it; I feel as if I were stumbling, with bare feet and with considerable pain, over the sharpest pebbles of Brighton beach. So, no doubt, do my listeners. But I have been practising it for nearly ten years, and I shall go on practising it, flat by flat and sharp by sharp and natural by natural, with an increasing hatred of the fourth finger of my left hand, which has Communist tendencies.
I had read Nichols' excellent childrens books when I was about ten and on finding a copy of Merry Hall in a second hand bookshop (along with the others in the trilogy) I decided to see if his writing for adults was equally magical; I was not disappointed. Merry Hall is a charming book. Nichols' enthusiasm is infectious and made me look at flowers with renewed joy but don't worry if you are not an avid gardener, Nichols was not bothered with the day to day business of weeding etc, he has a vision of creating a place of beauty which he shares with the reader. It's an exciting story of the creation of a personal paradise. Gardening aside the (the book has much more to offer than horticultural musings)the characters he creates are glorious. His anecdotes about his neighbours are very funny and written with tremendously witty observations. I couldn't wait to read the rest of the trilogy once I'd read Merry Hall and I suggest you do the same. I was sad to reach the end of the Merry Hall trilogy and have ordered the Allways trilogy to cheer myself up again. I'm now a confirmed Nichols addict.
Even if you are not a gardener, this is a book that will bring a smile to your face on every page and even an occasional belly laugh. And addicted gardeners will relish in the many familiar passions and mistakes made by Mr. Nichols when flying full tilt into his latest hairbrain idea. This book is easy to read and equally easy to put down when the need arises. I plan to read the whole series.
I bought the Merry Hall trilogy for my mother for her birthday, and was delighted when she passed them on to me. I was very curious to read them, as I love the acidic style of writing of Mr Nichols, and he does not disappoint. Ostensibly a book about his revival of the eponymous Merry Hall and its five acres of garden, it is most delightful, in my eyes, for its peppering of acerbic character sketches, odd little tales of his life, and his obsession with cats. I can take or leave the gardening parts to be honest. They're not really my bag, but as an anecdotal meander through the life of someone who led a rich and fascinating life, and who had a keen eye and ear for the ridiculous, it is glorious. I am looking forward to reading the other two volumes in the trilogy.