- Series: Beverley Nichols Trilogy
- Hardcover: 342 pages
- Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated; Reissue edition (March 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0881924172
- ISBN-13: 978-0881924176
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.2 x 5.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Merry Hall (Beverley Nichols Trilogy Book 1) Hardcover – Illustrated, March 1, 1998
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From Library Journal
Published in 1951, this example of "garden literature" relates how author Nichols constructed a massive garden on a run-down estate. Not a straight "how-to," Nichols's text also includes humorous portraits of the locals who both assist and frustrate his efforts. The text is buttressed with numerous black-and-white drawings.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
...Merry Hall, first published in 1951 and reissued this year by the redoubtable Timber Press, is the very model of gardening insouciance. -- Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times Book Review, 12/6/98
His real energy goes into his opinions, which-like those of most English garden lovers-are unshaded by doubt. -- Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Globe, May 21, 2000
Nichols' particular gift is to entertain, enlighten, and enrich his readers. -- Stephanie Feeney, The American Gardener, May/June 1998
Nichols's wit and silly adventures...add a bit of welcome hilarity to the all-too-serious literature of gardening. -- Anne Raver, New York Times, February 27, 2000
Top customer reviews
The first of the trilogy, Merry Hall details his search, at times frustrating, for the perfect house and garden. Very soon he became aware of what land agents (realtors for us Yanks) really meant in their ads, and he started to see his hopes plummet as his hopes were continually dashed. But one listing caught his eye, and with a good friend, he took the journey out of London to look the place over.
The estate, spreading over five acres are a compendium of every gardening mistake. Ghastly ornaments litter the grounds -- the previous owner was very fond of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). And the house, a lovely Georgian mansion, isn't much better. While it hasn't fallen down yet, there are 'additions' that are ugly and inappropriate, and decorating choices of colours that can be best left to the imagination. Not to mention the holly hedges, a stagnant stinking pond of unimaginable depths, and dire warnings from his friend that Nichols is about to step into a money pit that will sap his life and savings.
Undeterred by such gloomy words, Nichols falls head over heels in love with his find, especially when he discovers the kitchen garden. Not only is it beautifully kept, but along one wall is a collection of exquisite lilies. Soon, he discovers why there is such order in the midst of such chaos. For along with the house and land comes Oldfield, an ancient gardener of superb talents. Smitten, Nichols signs for the house on the spot, and soon starts on that most dreaded adventure that most home owners endure -- renovations.
With his 'valet,' Gaskin, and two cats, 'One' and 'Four' Nichols moves into Merry Hall, and starts the work with a great deal of gusto, and soon finds out that in his own little Eden, there's a few problems. For one, there are the neighbors, Miss Emily and Our Rose, forever scheming to get something out his prized gardens. And Oldfield, is quite another problem altogether. There are towering elm trees and their suckers, the dratted holly hedge (the solution to that one is not one that I would recommend!), and the question of what would you do if you could dream -- and dream big?
I loved reading this book. I found myself entranced with Nichols writing about everyday life, the perils and delights of gardening, and living with cats. At times I was helplessly laughing at Nichols' searing wit and lofty views on post-War taste in Britain. He, quite frankly, doesn't give a hoot as to what people will think of him (save Oldfield, for very sensible reasons).
Where this story shines, however, is not just in the language and Nichols' skills at writing. It's in his loving, vivid descriptions of flowers and plants, and I found my mouth watering, and desperate looks out at my own wilderness, wondering Could I do it too? The antics of his cats had me in nodding agreement, and plucking at my partner's sleeve and crying out, Listen to this --!
Along with Nichols' wonderful prose, there are illustrations by William McLaren in black and white, along with several photographs of Beverley Nichols (including one with 'Four' in his arms). For this new edition, there is also a forward by Ann Lovejoy and an index of all of the plants by Roy C. Dicks. The book itself is a facsimile of the original edition published by Jonathan Cape in 1951. This new edition, only available in hardbound, is published by Timber Press books, and they can be reached at [...] for more reprints of Beverley Nichols books.
In short, this is a book to delight any gardener, bibliophile or cat lover's soul. It's funny, at times sorrowful (I cried over 'Two' and 'Three's stories), and came away with a wistful hope that one day too, I would have a wee garden of my own. If you can't purchase this, do try to get your hands on this one at your local library. It is simply too good to miss.
Five stars overall, recommended.