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The Pursuit of Paradise Hardcover – 20 Sep 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 377 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (20 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002558440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002558440
  • Package Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.3 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 435,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

In the foreword to this social history of gardens and gardeningJane Brown states her intention to steer away from "overly aristocratic" garden history in favour of one that is "popular and nostalgic." From our early introduction to the garden as children via nursery rhymes and fairy tales, the notion of garden as refuge and stepping stone to adventure is deeply embedded in our psyche. Humankind's need to tend the earth is ancient and has come in many guises through history. From the sensuous pleasure gardens of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights to the orderly monastic vegetable plots of Benedictine monks, the horticultural fascination is timeless.

Social changes have radically affected our view of gardening--who does it and how it is done. Brown traces these changes thematically from the links between gardens and art, fashion, pleasure, healing, science, even to war and military gardens. Rather than showing how gardening has simply reflected changes in society, Brown uses England's most popular pursuit to reflect these diverse social changes and historic trends. A multitude of historic and literary examples are seized upon to illustrate her lively argument. References move quickly from The Beano to Blenheim House, Barbara Cartland to Babylon, blending the literary, scientific, esoteric and popular in one breath. Though detailed and precise, the tone is wittily serious and wryly amusing with Brown's exuberance surfacing in descriptions such as here on the sight of pineapples growing in the rediscovered garden at Heligan in Cornwall: "There is something far more miraculous about this juicy yellow orb, with all its chin-dribbling lusciousness, emerging from the chill of a bleak Cornish farmyard and piles of dung, than about all the sun- drenched fruits jetted from afar daily to our supermarket shelves."

For the future Brown looks back to the healing comfort of plants, citing as an example Monty Don's Snowdrop Garden at Wythenshawe Hospital designed for parents who have lost a child. Allied with this is a fascination with Zen Buddist gardens promising contemplative fulfilment and, above all, of the boom in organic gardening which will ensure that we and our gardens will be in a healthier state than ever. This lovely book interestingly and wittily makes us aware of the ancient and colourful lineage of which we are a part. Venerating England's most popular pastime in the remembrance that, "it is this, the simplest and yet most precious combination of us and our soil, that bonds us in the pursuit of paradise with all who have gone before and those yet to come." --Rachel O'Connor


Full of fascinating characters and vignettes - from ancient Greeks to suffragettes, from eccentric military men to Catholics in hiding from persecution - this text looks into how society's changes have altered our views of gardening, who does it, and how we do it. What drives people to risk their lives in search of a rare Himalayan flower? Why are so many gardeners homosexual? How did gardening become a respectable career for women? When did looking at other people's gardens become a national British pastime? Using particular gardens to lead into themes like power, refuge, female emancipation, distribution of wealth and fashion, Jane Brown presents a history of the nation through its most popular national pursuit.

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3 March 2016
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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21 August 2015
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Most helpful customer reviews on 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 reviews
A. Woodley
4.0 out of 5 starsHelpful well illustrated, but left me needing to know more
26 December 2005 - Published on
Format: Paperback
5 people found this helpful.

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