Elizabeth and her German Garden
Elizabeth von Arnim
"I see a time coming when the passion for my garden will have taken such a hold on me that I shall not only entirely cease buying more clothes, but begin to sell those that I already have." (p. 154)
This is a delightful autobiographical novel set at a German country house. Elizabeth, the mother of three young girls, convinced her German husband to live in this house instead of in the city, and set about developing the garden. Her joy and humor illuminate every page. Her husband, who early on chastises her for not writing to him while he is away, is called simply "the Man of Wrath," and her children are called "April baby," "May baby," and "June baby" according to the month they were born (three years in a row, I might add!) While Elizabeth's joy in gardening is evident, so is her frustration at being a woman at the beginning of the 20th century. She pokes fun at her husband's superior attitude, but there is also a lengthy scene in which he discusses women's place and at this point, her anger is evident. The novel takes place over a year's time, in which she discusses both gardening and family life. At Christmastime, Elizabeth has two visitors: one, a dear friend and the other, a student she was asked to take in over the holidays. The interactions among the three women, and the ways in which houseguests can grow tiresome, are all brilliantly portrayed.
As was common for women of that time, Elizabeth von Arnim published this book anonymously. Subsequent books were published "by the author of Elizabeth and her German Garden," and also "by Elizabeth." This book is a perfect example of why Virago Press publishes the Virago Modern Classics: to bring to life the excellent work of women who were overlooked during their day. ( )