Skymeadow

Charlie Hart, Constable, 288pp, £16.99

The playwright Terence Rattigan had a rule when he was asked about reviews: “When you’re writing about something you like but about which you have important reservations, the proper thing is to put your approval at the top of the notice and then bring up the reservations afterwards”.

So let me be perfectly clear: Skymeadow is an enthralling and delightful debut about the creation of an English garden in the depths of Essex and is a welcome addition to the genre of garden books that are often as much about restoration of self and sanity as about gardening itself.

Creating a new garden can be a little like dressing or decorating a theatrical stage set. If this new creation is successful, the garden will take on a dramatic life of its own and its creator becomes spectator, stage manager, director and producer.

There is no shortage of toil and sweat in this memoir. Charlie Hart creates a new, sprawling garden as a form of dealing with dissatisfaction in his career, an unsatisfying bourgeois life in London, and the need for space and solitude together with bringing up a young family of four children with only one driver.

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