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Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth…

Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898)

by Elizabeth von Arnim

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Simple and charming, a lovely little memoir about Elizabeth von Arnim's life in a remote corner of Pommerania, and her discovery of the delights of owning a garden. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Elizabeth And Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim was such a delight. It was my company before bedtime for a few weeks and it was such a gentle, lovely read to send me to sleep. Von Arnim talks quite a bit about her gorgeous garden and her seemingly idyllic, pastoral life in her country house in Germany, of playing with her charming young daughters, bantering with her husband ‘Man of Wrath’, entertaining a not-so-welcome house guest over the holidays. This book was such a gem of a read! ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
Reading Elizabeth and her German Garden reminded me how few Elizabeth von Arnim books I have read really. I must remedy this, there is something so appealing in her voice, that I feel, not only that I like her books very much, but also that I would have really liked the woman behind them.

“Not the least of my many blessings is that we have only one neighbour. If you have to have neighbours at all, it is at least a mercy that there should be only one; for with people dropping in at all hours and wanting to talk to you, how are you to get on with your life, I should like to know, and read your books, and dream your dreams to your satisfaction?”

gardenDescribed as a novel, Elizabeth and her German Garden has the feel of a memoir. Written in the form of a diary, it was Elizabeth von Arnim’s first novel, originally published anonymously. It is immediately very personal as it recounts the first couple of blissful months that the Elizabeth of the title spends alone supervising the redecorating work at her German home.
Here in the garden of her home, Elizabeth is able to escape the traditional routine of German wife and mother. Her simple joy in her garden is adorably infectious, she has a lot to learn about gardens – she orders a mass of seeds and is deflated when the promised paradise doesn’t materialise. Her gardener and his assistant are sometimes bemused by her instructions – but bit by bit her garden begins to take shape. Her days are spent almost entirely in the garden; here her meals of salad and bread are served to her on a tray. At night she keeps an old dinner bell by her bedside which helps to quell the night time fear of being alone. Elizabeth revels in the beauty of her peonies, roses and lilacs. Wishing sometimes that convention didn’t preclude her from getting her own hands dirty.

“I did one warm Sunday in last year’s April during the servants’ dinner hour, doubly secure from the gardener by the day and the dinner, slink out with a spade and a rake and feverishly dig a little piece of ground and break it up and sow surreptitious ipomoea and run back very hot and guilty into the house and get into a chair and behind a book and look languid just in time to save my reputation.”

Soon her husband arrives, wondering why it is she hasn’t written to him – Elizabeth informs her husband (here after he is called The Man of Wrath) she was far too happy to do so. Elizabeth’s friends and acquaintances regard what they see as her burial in the country as a reason for pity, Elizabeth is amused by their attitude. Elizabeth’s husband the hilariously named Man of Wrath is portrayed with a degree of satirical affection, I get the feeling her teasing of him though irreverent is tongue in cheek. He in turn seems to tolerate with some bemusement his wife’s eccentricities which include spending most of her pin money on things for her adored garden.

In time Elizabeth is joined by her family, The Man of Wrath, and her children, three little girls referred to as: the April, May and June baby respectively, although the eldest, the April baby is actually five. The children are portrayed with deep affection, their little exploits and cute childish sayings recounted with maternal humour and pride. The children are naturally accompanied by their governess, a woman Elizabeth finds just a little trying.

“In common with most governesses she has a little dark down on her upper lip, and the April baby appeared one day at dinner with her own decorated in faithful imitation, having achieved it after much struggling with the aid of a lead pencil and much love. Miss Jones put her in a corner for impertinence. I wonder why governesses are so unpleasant? The Man of Wrath says it is because they are not married. I would add that the strain of continually having to set an example must surely be very great. It is much easier, and often more pleasant, to be a warning than an example.”

Elizabeth’s home and peace is further invaded by a lengthy visit of two women Irais and Minora, their presence and the need to play hostess taking her away from the garden, but when they leave it is spring and Elizabeth can move forward with her plans.

Elizabeth is a woman out of her time in many respects – quietly irreverent she is a woman who appreciates her own space, who feels she has earned the right to her own space, a woman who believes:

“…all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping the foolish from applying their hearts to wisdom.”

And who is to say she is wrong?

I loved this book, just as I have loved the other Elizabeth von Arnim books I have read, I feel I must now acquire more – immediately! ( )
1 vote Heaven-Ali | Jul 7, 2015 |
I did not find this book quite as good as The Enchanted April, but it was still very enjoyable. It was just not quite what I expected. It starts out well enough, her lovely words about the beauties of the garden and musing on why no one else seems to appreciate it so much. Others pity her for being left alone in the very place she loves -they just don't understand. How she thrives on solitude and books and dearly loves her plants, would rather not even have visitors. There is an oddly amusing passage where she sneaks into her cousins' garden to see what they have done with it since she was last there- it is apparent she doesn't like these cousins much, and is afraid of being found there. And of course there are all her efforts to compose a beautiful landscape with the plants, full of learning errors- although she doesn't actually get her hands dirty, merely directing the staff where to put plants she has selected.

There's another longer section about a houseguest somehow forced upon Elizabeth; it becomes an extended stay lasting several weeks, even though no one in the household seems to like this girl much. She purports to be studying German culture in order to write a book, but her inquiries are either ignorant or insulting by degrees. There there's some odd attitudes towards her own children expressed, and about women- her own gender! which reminded me that I was reading a book from a very different time. She also refers to her husband as The Man of Wrath- I was never sure whether this was in jest, or if they really had a bad relationship.

more at the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Jun 17, 2014 |
Charming, reflective journal about life for a German woman in a country house in the late 19th century. She is witty and willful, takes much for granted and records the seasons and the successes and failures in her garden. ( )
  Tifi | Dec 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth von Arnimprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baldizzone, Gabriella BianchiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Desroussilles, François DupuigrenetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dormagen, AdelheidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eek, Mien vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, Elizabeth JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pera, CristóbalTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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May 7th. -- I love my garden.
In 1889 Henry Beauchamp took his youngest daughter May to Italy. (Introduction)
...the dullest book takes on a certain saving grace if read out of doors, just as bread and butter, devoid of charm in the drawing-room, is ambrosia eaten under a tree.
I spend the day out of doors with a book, and no mortal eye has yet seen me sew or cook. But why cook when you can get someone to cook for you? And as for sewing, the maids will hem the sheets better and quicker than I could, and all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping the foolish from applying their hearts to wisdom.
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From back cover: "May 7th - I love my garden...there were days last winter when I danced for sheer joy out in my frost-bound garden in spite of my years and children. But I did it behind a bush, having a due regard for the decencies..."
writes Elizabeth in her German garden. Indoors are servants, meals and furniture. There, too, is The Man of Wrath, her upright Teutonic husband, inspiring in Elizabeth a mixture of irritation, affection and irreverence. But outside she can escape domestic routine, read favourite books, play with her three babies - and garden to her heart's content. Through Elizabeth's eyes we watch the seasons, from May's "oasis of bird-cherries and greenery" to the "quiet days, crimson creepers and blackberries" of autumn. Then snow carpets her Pomeranian wilderness until spring arrives, the garden "hurrying on its green and flowered petticoat". And each season brings with it new events as friends and neighbours come and go, all wonderfully recorded with Elizabeth's uniquely witty pen.
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Inside are servants, meals and furniture, and an upright Teutonic husband, but outside in the garden, Elizabeth can escape domestic routine, play with her babies and garden to her heart's content.

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