Secrets in a Country Garden
Email this review


 A pleasantly campy, my-life-in-Elysium gardener's memoir. Blajan, born in Monte Carlo, but now of uncertain age, moved six years ago to ``a small cottage in an extremely rural area near the Belgian border.'' Our narrator is nothing if not coy. He never does tell us, for example, which nation he lives in with so many ladybugs, weeds, wasps, flowers, and slugs. Blajan builds an enchanting personal myth from his universal backyard in Eden. Like an Adam who can't stop snickering, he discovers nature with a light-handed, unconventional Çlan: Before his very eyes, a fanciful stinkhorn fungus, ``vaguely obscene,'' swells up pink and orange from the depths of a hedge. He learns that ``pine cones do have voices''--which are exercised when heat causes the cones to expand and explode. As a self-described ``horticultural nitwit'' who spends half of every year as an officer on a cruise ship, Blajan comes home to diddle with the bliss of daffodils: ``Some looked like roses and some looked like weird spidery insects. Some looked like they ought to be psychoanalyzed.'' Yet these brief, sociable, lyric essays do not just joke around. By the time Blajan has told the tale of a centuries-old linden tree, culminating in the tree's bizarre funeral service, it is difficult not to be moved. Likewise, his verbal snapshot of an elderly, blind gardener and her acute sense of smell, sound, and touch is unforgettable. ``Silence does not exist. Silence is a patchwork of little sounds,'' he decides because of her. Though Blajan's giddiness can get the better of him, he knows how to charm: ``We should festoon the entire world with garlands that will reach from one continent to another and bring the people together. An impractical and whimsical suggestion, maybe, of which I'm nevertheless very much in favor.'' Peter Pan succumbs gleefully to a toadstool.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-85729-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997