Garden Bloggers' Book Club
I have to admit to a certain hesitancy when Two Gardeners: Katherine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence – A Friendship in Letters was chosen for the February 2007 selection for GBBC. After all, it’s rude to read other people’s correspondence. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Both the writers and the writing were so engaging that by the end of the book, I felt as if we were old friends. Based on that, I was looking forward to this month’s selection, Dear Friend & Gardener: Letters on Life and Gardening by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd.
I had trouble with this book. I just couldn’t get into it. Was it because I don’t share the authors’ fascination with the many types of snowdrops? Or maybe because I don’t care for opera? And what exactly does opera have to do with gardening? Perhaps it was the writing. The letters were more esoteric discussions than chatty correspondence between two gardeners who are also close friends. Are the English more formal in their letter-writing?
The answer, of course, is that these are not “real” letters. They are merely a literary device suggested and edited by publishers. This was hinted at by Mr. Lloyd in his introduction but I didn’t catch on until the very end when the “correspondence” drew to a close. I read the entire book under the impression that I was reading genuine letters originally written with no thought of future publication. Once it was revealed that the “letters” were written specifically to be published in book form, I felt cheated. It should have been clearly stated at the beginning that this is a collection of essays addressed to each other so that the reader is not led to think that s/he is about to be privy to something special.