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Plot 29: A Memoir: LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD AND WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE Hardcover – 9 Mar 2017
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‘Plot 29 is a superbly written testament to the power of earth to nourish and heal. The writing is taut and honed to a sinewy strength, but rich with evocation and delight … I loved it’ Monty Don
‘The sort of book you never forget reading: devastating, haunting and utterly beautiful’ India Knight
‘An absolutely original book. Absolutely brilliant. The best family memoir I’ve read in years’ Bill Buford
‘A thoughtful and beautifully realised meditation on families and all the love, loss, pain, healing and regeneration they can bring in their wake. A remarkable achievement’ William Dalrymple
‘Allan Jenkins blooms. His garden bears fruit. Enter the seasons with him and grow. I love this book’ Lemn Sissay
‘Brave, exquisitely written and utterly compelling’ Nigel Slater
‘A compelling read … Jenkins’ story raises many questions, not least that of whether it’s possible to transcend one’s past. After his own agony, is redemption possible? Read this brilliant book, and weep’ The Herald
About the Author
Allan Jenkins is editor of Observer Food Monthly. He was previously editor of the Observer Magazine, food and drink editor on the Independent newspaper and once lived in an experimental eco-community on Anglesey, growing organic food on the edge of the Irish sea.
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I didn't really know what to expect of the book, I had no preconceptions, apart from thinking how adorable and happy these two little boys were in the black & white photos from the 1950's and the promise of an interesting story of childhood intertwined with a little bit of gardening.
What I got was a mostly painful story of childhood neglect with a lot of gardening!
There are two plots to this story, the plot to find out who and where he and his brother Christopher came from after spending years in care homes and with a foster family; the Drabble's, and Plot 29, the allotment where he is really at home, where the author can simply be and do, feel and grow happiness, busying around without any pain (well only the physical kind perhaps, from too much digging) Where the author can nurture in a way his own family never could.
The author's style of writing is exquisite, short and sharp, sometimes funny; 'Hampstead should have a tradesman's entrance' he writes, when leaving the allotment after a few hours of sweating, covered in mud and stinking. Its descriptions are vivid, I can actually see the chard, the bright orange marigolds, feel the rain, watch out for the sneaky fox. I can smell the flowers, the herbs see birds swoop, just as much as I can see the prettiness of the cottage of his foster years and feel the anxiety in his claustrophobic nightmares - it is all engulfing. I have read nothing like it before - I didn't want it to end but I did want his pain to end and I did want a fairytale happy ending...(I do believe in faeries)
I finished the book of course, (record reading time) because I couldn't put it down, didn't want to put it down, felt that if I put it down then I was neglecting the author like so many of his family had done in the past. This book grips you, you want to hold that child and give him the cuddles he so craved as a little boy; Lilian, the foster mother was not big on loving and cuddling.
I am recommending this book to all of my friends, I want everyone to read it because it is compelling. The book is a paradox, it is painful and ugly at times, but it is also beautiful, I rejoice when he rejoices, I feel his pain when he is being hurt. I am not a gardener, but the descriptive parts of growing and sowing, of watering and tending, of planting and picking, of tasting and savouring something he nurtured himself is hard not to fall in love with. It makes me want to do the same, longing to get my hands dirty, of doing something with my hands that is so natural, so instinctive and so rewarding. Plot 29 is the authors safe place, his haven, his home and his restorer.
I loved this book and when I am ready, I will read it again.
Who do I think this book will appeal to? Well gardeners obviously, people who grew up in childcare certainly, and people like me, who, despairs at child cruelty and neglect, someone who could now be interested in gardening! someone who loves an excellently written book, someone who is interested in social history, in cooking.
I'm giving this book 5 stars - I don't ever remember reading one quite like it, it's not my usual choice it. I hope he writes another because I want to read more from this author and because this book stayed with me and in my thoughts long after I had read and finished the final page.
author's heartbreaking search for his own roots. I have purchased copies for two gardening friends and shall treasure and re-read my own copy.
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