Monday, June 19, 2006

Earthly Joys

Earthly Joys is a historical novel with a gardening theme by Philippa Gregory (published by Simon & Schuster.) The setting is primarily Great Brittan in the early sixteen-hundreds. The plot follows the life and gardening career of fictional character, John Tradescant. At the beginning of the book John is engaged as the head gardener for Sir Robert Cecil, a member of King James’s court. By the end of the book, Tradescant is head gardener for the Queen of England. He has many adventures in between and we are treated to a look at court life and the evolution of palace gardens.

This was my first experience with Philippa Gregory’s writing, and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m a rather picky reader and have a number of pet peeves. Small stuff can bother me – like when writers can’t keep their sets straight. I will find myself wondering “Weren’t those curtains green?” I’ve been known to go back and reread whole chapters to try to figure out why a writer is now calling them yellow. Overly sloppy punctuation or grammar can completely interfere with my ability to enjoy a story. Philippa’s prose is flawless. Kudos to her and the editors who had a hand in turning out this most enjoyable book.

If you love gardening, history, or are fascinated with the life of courtiers and their servants, I definitely recommend Earthly Joys. I normally read a chapter or so before retiring each evening. I couldn’t put this book down. As a gardener I found I had much in common with the main character, and as a Native person I learned a great deal. Reading this book it became clear to me why the pilgrims felt they needed to escape from Brittan. It also helped me understand why they treated Native people as they did when the arrived. They learned the lessons of dominance and suppression well under the English Lords.

The sequel to Earthly Joys is Virgin Earth (St Martins Press). You can be sure I will be looking for it in the near future. In the mean time, I am going to catch up on my sleep.

For more information visit the author's web page:

If you enjoy reading about gardening, here are some other book reviews from my blog:

We Didn’t Have Much, But We Sure Had Plenty

The Literary Garden

Gardens in the Dunes

The Principals of Gardening

The Emergency of Agriculture & Save Your Own Seed

Happy reading,



Xris said...

John Tradescant, the Elder and the Younger, are historical figures, not fictional ones. See The plant genus Tradescantia, Spiderworts, is named for them.

Harvest said...

Thanks for pointing that out! The possibility crossed my mind but the authors own statement was that "Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously." And man, you were fast - I had barely posted that when you replied . . . Great pic by the way . . .