Penelope Lively

Life in the Garden

Published 2nd November 2017

The two central activities in my life – alongside writing – have been reading and gardening.

Penelope Lively has always been a keen gardener. This book is partly a memoir of her own life in gardens: the large garden at home in Cairo where she spent most of her childhood, her grandmother’s garden in a sloping Somerset field, then two successive Oxfordshire gardens of her own, and the smaller urban garden in the North London home she lives in today.

It is also a wise, engaging and far-ranging exploration of gardens in literature, from Paradise Lost to Alice in Wonderland, and of writers and their gardens, from Virginia Woolf to Philip Larkin.

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"Rich and unusual, a book to treasure. Few recent gardening books come anywhere close to its style, intelligence and depth. Moves between Lively’s own horticultural life and a broad history of gardening."

"Wonderful. A manifesto of horticultural delight."
Literary Review

"Beautiful. Perfect for literary garden lovers."
Good Housekeeping

"Enchanting. Reading this book is like walking with a wise, humorous guide through a series of garden rooms . . . and finding that vistas suddenly open out, on to history, fashion, politics, reflections on time and the taming of nature."

"Exquisite and original."
Daily Telegraph

"A perfect bedside book. In part it’s a memoir of the gardens in Lively’s life, starting with the exotic Egyptian garden of her childhood and continuing up to her small present-day garden in a north London square."
Sunday Express

"A gentle survey of the garden’s place in Western culture, which morphs into a personal meditation on time, memory and a life well lived."

"Scholarly bedtime reading."

"Lively finds memories of her own gardens scrambling like roses through insights into the history of gardening and the artists – including Woolf, Monet and PG Wodehouse – who have been inspired by their gardens."
Daily Mail


"Elegant, entertaining and inspirational."
Woman & Home