Friday, June 10, 2016
Shakepeare's (Beautiful) Gardens
Shakespeare's Gardens / Jackie Bennett, photographs by Andrew Lawson.
London: Quarto UK, c2016.
I was offered a beautiful book for review recently, and didn't hesitate on this one. It's called Shakespeare's Gardens, and although it is a coffee table book heavily laden with glorious pictures, it also includes a fascinating text full of historical tidbits. It's a great combination!
My husband and I both enjoyed paging through this one. I loved the history of gardens from Elizabethan times to the present, at all sorts of homes associated with Shakespeare -- from Anne Hathaway's cottage (the most painted/photographed home in England) to Shakespeare's home New Place (which was torn down by the owner in a fit of pique at the municipal government in 1759, an act which led to the locals ostracizing and driving him from the village). All sorts of fabulous historical fact and gossip in this one! It explores five gardens that Shakespeare would have known, all currently cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
I personally loved the history of Elizabethan knot gardens, and how they were influenced by and had their own influence on the Jacobean and blackwork embroidery popular at that time. Since embroidery is one of my own hobbies, I found this section particularly intriguing. The illustrations around this topic were inspiring. My husband, who is the real gardener around here, loved the whole book, and appreciated the info on Victorian gardens, a style he is drawn to.
An interesting inclusion was a section on the meaning of herbs and flowers, both medical and folkloric, that Shakespeare mentioned in the plays. This helps modern readers to understand more of the allusions and double meanings of plants in the plays, and I thought it was brilliant.
This was a perfect book to read during the Stratford Festival's Opening Week, in this 400th year since Shakespeare's death. It was quite educational, apart from being gorgeous to flip through. It makes me wish I knew more about gardening...but as my favourite part of a garden lies simply in looking at it, this was the perfect book for me!
If you're interested in more info about this book, and some unbelievably gorgeous photos of the gardens mentioned, visit the blog Reep for an account of a talk by the author Jackie Bennett.