Charming musings on the “moments of bliss” found in the garden.



An agreeable set of essays in which gardening teaches perspective and the rewards of hard work.

When Israeli novelist Shalev (Two She-Bears, 2016, etc.) first saw his home in the Jezreel Valley, its garden was dried up and derelict. Although his grandfather kept an orchard and his mother took pride in her Jerusalem garden, he had little personal experience with horticulture. In this pleasant “collection of impressions of a modest wild garden and the gardener who tends it,” he charts the development of a hobby that soon became his “new love.” With the help of an elderly village guru, he learned what to plant and what to cut down, creating such an idyll that a wedding party once mistook his garden for a countryside photo shoot location. The book rests on solid botanical knowledge but is never heavy-handed. Rather, Shalev sometimes indulges in whimsy, as when he asks his sea squill plants if they want to be sown together or separately. Though the author notes an overall decline in local wildlife, he still enjoys owl calls and nocturnal visits from fruit bats. In a standout chapter, Shalev good-naturedly chronicles a losing battle against mole rats. The author weaves in Jewish wisdom via stories of the Tree of Life and God’s providing water as well as King Solomon’s words in praise of ants. Shalev contends that keeping a garden helps with cultivating a proper sense of time—not just planning ahead with annuals, but also planting a tree that will remain hundreds of years after its planter is gone. “This patience is not something I brought to the garden,” he writes, “but rather something I received from it.” He persuasively likens gardening to writing in that both necessitate time, dedication, and back pain but ultimately produce beauty. At the end of the book, when he describes how he cut down his old, dying lemon tree to replace it with another, it reminds him of his mortality: “I, too, am a rather old lemon tree.”

Charming musings on the “moments of bliss” found in the garden.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4351-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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