Cathy's Reviews > Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
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's review
May 26, 09

bookshelves: 2009-read, bookgroup, germany
Read in May, 2009

For me, a gem. I loved Elizabeth's waspish, witty comments. A touch like Jane Austen's letters: unguarded; rooted in the charm of a daily life which others trample on; critical of foibles, her own and others'.

She may well seem snobbish. She has no time for sewing: '.. the maids will hem the sheets better and quicker than I could, and all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping the foolish from applying their hearts to wisdom'. As someone who has sewn, but never had any talent for it, I find criticism of those craft geniuses wicked, but refreshing!

I love her self-distancing comments on her babies: 'the June baby...[has:] arms like miniature prize-fighter's arms - I never saw such things; they are the pride and joy of her little nurse, who had tied them up with blue ribbons, and kept on kissing them. I shall certainly notbe able to take her to balls when she grows up, if she goes on having arms like that.'

The relationship with her husband - older than her, Prussian, named 'the Man of Wrath' or 'the Sage' is also distanced. She tends not to criticise, but makes wry comment or gives him pages of revealing monologue. Much of the book is about visitors, whose self-absorption is the source of a lot of quiet humour. Minora, a young English visitor to the German country house, addresses Elizabeth (née Beauchamp, Australian-born, London-educated) hostess: 'You speak English very well, - very well indeed, do you know.'

Of course the book is ostensibly about Elizabeth's passion for her garden, and her joys and frustrations (especially when it is not proper for her to do any physical work herself) are vivid. I could quote on and on.

I have this book only on loan but it's on my Bookmooch wishlist. I would love to read it again regularly.
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Quotes Cathy Liked

Elizabeth von Arnim
“..all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping the foolish from applying their hearts to wisdom.”
Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden


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