Mirabel Osler is the critically acclaimed author of A Breath from Elsewhere and the classic A Gentle Plea for Chaos. She lives in Shropshire.
I’ve hijacked this book for the Gardening section as I couldn’t bear to miss Mirabel Osler’s new book. She starts and ends with gardens and throughout plants, trees, fragrance and gardens are much in evidence so I feel I am somewhat justified. She is looking back on life, sorting through accumulations of letters, diaries and photographs with that sadness that comes from knowing that one day who will know that person in the photograph, their story and history. We are introduced to places and people, her beloved husband Michael who sadly died just before her classic A Gentle Plea for Chaos was originally published, her children, her friends, the places where she has lived – and loved. A jewel of a book. Like for Like ReadingA Little History of British Gardening, Jenny UglowA Gentle Plea for Chaos, Mirabel Osler
A host of vividly caught characters are here: Mirabel's extrovert, free-spirited mother Phyllis; Aylmer Vallance, who with extraordinary love letters would rescue her mother from a twilight life; Stella Bowen, Phyllis's lifelong friend and fellow student under Ezra Pound, their introduction to the London literati, notably Ford Madox Ford. Throughout Mirabel's childhood, it was Stella who would be the one fast colour amid her mercurial mother's love affairs. Turning closer to the present - to new friendships, the paring away of previous assumptions and conventions and the serendipities of chance acquaintance - we encounter Michael, Mirabel's late husband, who's barbaric public-school childhood contrasted so dramatically with Mirabel's own, affectionate and carefree; whose repressed father so adored roses; their childhood meeting; their delight in their children and beloved Shropshire garden, a character in its own right, full of the joy of the unexpected. Celebrated author of A Gentle Plea for Chaos, Mirabel Osler's meditation on the profound pleasures of writing, gardens, travel and food is both graceful and deeply affecting.
In this book the author describes the way her garden evolved and how, without meaning to do so, she let it take over her life. She suggests moving away from planning, regimentation and gardening with the mentality of a stamp-collector. Frequently funny and always stimulating, she writes of the alchemy of gardens, of the 19th-century plant-collectors and plant illustrators and of the gardening philosophers, all fertilizing great thoughts along with their hollyhocks. She won the 1988 Sinclair Consumer Press Garden Writer of the Year Award.
In years gone by, the traveller in France could rely on coming across a restaurant where the tables were ready-laid with heavy cotton napkins, a carafe of wine and a basket of freshly baked bread, and where the ensuing meal would encompass recipes of remarkable local dishes handed down from generation to generation. But no longer. In an inspiring quest for this rapidly disappearing traditional cuisine and culture, Mirabel Osler travels the length and breadth of France, focusing on individual chefs and restaurants, exploring producers and suppliers such the travelling butchers and bakers, and the local markets where much of the produce is bought. It is an enticing and evocative picture of a way of life which is fast being eroded by the modern world, but also an affirmation that, for some, the old traditions will always survive.
Mirabel Osler attempts in this work to take the reader beyond her own garden, offering encouragement to all gardeners, especially novices, to ignore books and try whatever appeals to them.
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