HOLLYHOCKS, LAMBS AND OTHER PASSIONS: A Memoir of Thornhill Farm by Dee Hardie


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For years, Hardie has been tantalizing readers of House Beautiful with monthly glimpses of what must be the Perfect Home: dauntingly old yet lovingly and sensibly restored, deep in the countryside yet full of friends and family, comfortable without being kitschy, decorated with flair yet never touched by the deadening hand of the interior decorator. This memoir (the horrible title notwithstanding) is Hardie's charming, straightforward account of how such a place came to be. The secret seems to be a simple delight in whatever pleases the eye. When Thornhill Farm was first encountered by the Hardies, there was, on the face of it, little that met that requirement. But the then-young wife saw one wonderful possibility--a space for a tiny cloistered garden--and she was captured. The love affair with her ungainly find was to continue for more than 30 years. This, of course, is the other secret--time, and the conviction that one has plenty of it, a lifetime of it. Attic storerooms are converted into bedrooms, gardens added to, sheep raised, floors stenciled, teapots collected (a grand total of eight over the course of three decades), Christmas trees decorated (three of them--one each in the living room, dining room and kitchen), and Sunday dinners cooked as if there was no real rush. The house itself is the protaganist of this story. The author respects her family's privacy, and her brood (four children, a husband, dogs, cats and sheep) plays very much a supporting role only. And yet when Hardie is almost felled by tragedy--the death, at 19, of a beloved son--she writes of herself and her grief quite simply and unself-consciously. She clearly believes that Thornhill Farm saved her, and thus the story of her loss is part of the story of her home. A memoir of Thornhill Farm (much better to think of this book by its subtitle) is a chronicle of a life dedicated to the joys of hearth and home, family and friends, good books and sheep. A pleasure for the mind's eye.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum