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Merry Hall

(Merry Hall Trilogy #1)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  763 ratings  ·  139 reviews
First in a trilogy, Merry Hall is the account of the restoration of a house and garden in post-war England. Though Mr. Nichols's horticultural undertaking is serious, his writing is high-spirited, riotously funny, and, at times, deliciously malicious.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 30th 1998 by Timber Press (first published 1951)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  763 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Babies, as all bachelors will agree, should not be allowed at large unless they are heavily draped, and fitted with various appliances for absorbing sound and moisture. If young married persons persist in their selfish pursuit of populating the planet, they should be compelled to bear the consequences. They should be shut behind high walls, clutching the terrible bundles which they have brought into the world, and when they emerge into society, if they insist on bringing these bundles with them, ...more
Pamela Shropshire
Social media is often decried, and fairly, as being unrealistic and fostering narcissism. However, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, social media is in the hand of the user. As a reader and bibliophile, social media has enriched my life immeasurably by introducing me to books and fellow book lovers and entire universes I would never have encountered on my own.

Beverley Nichols is a prime example. I read a review of Merry Hall here on Goodreads and immediately ordered a copy from Amazo
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ah Beverly Nichols! There is no sweeter tonic for the green thumb under cold weather oppression. A volume of Nichols, a warm cup of tea and a stack of seed catalogs will keep away any chill and keep the mental gloom from encroaching while you wait for the drifts to melt and leave you the nice black soil again. Merry Hall is the first book in his series about his very British gardening adventures as he fixes up and generally spiffifies the manor he bought outside London. So dreamy! I have to say ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I have never yet met a boring bonfire, nor failed to find some plausible excuse for making one."

"Begonias are not flowers, they are a state of mind, and a regrettable state into the bargain."

Described by some reviewers as P G. Wodehouse writing a gardening book, (though I think more like Evelyn Waugh). Hates begonias, loves bonfires and Siamese Cats. I was always going to love this, and I did.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Put me in post WWII London suburbs, add a manor house needing repair, a crusty old gardener, some siamese cats, one or two gossipy village socialites, and an author with the humor of PG Wodehouse and I'm truly happy.
A cross between E. F. Benson and P. G. Wodehouse, Beverley Nichols (a man) takes us on the adventures of moving into his new home, Merry Hall, in the English countryside. Along the way we meet his gardener, odd neighbors, his cats "One" and "Four," and his spot on observances of all. The last few chapters were a bit more technical for my liking, lots about the plants and flowers in his garden--I wanted to hear more about his meetings with Miss Rose and Miss Kemp and the exasperation that ensued! ...more
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I gave this 5 stars because it's uncomplicated, it's a true story, it takes place in England and it is all about gardening. I absolutely adored this book and so look forward to the next one in the series.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Very hard to rate Beverly Nichols. I give it 2.5*, and yet...for writing about the love of plants and gardening, he really deserves a lot more credit. He's a bit of a crank, a misogynist, impetuous, opinionated, gets inordinately upset over the noises from the farm next to him, and yet writes with such passion and tenderness about flowers and garden design. His description of "Oldfield" the gardener is so appreciative of the wisdom of the 70 year old plantsman as to be almost approaching awe. Th ...more
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A beauty of a book for gardeners. Nichols's prose is comfortable, clever, and very humorous, in a dry and mildly sarcastic way. Above all, Nichols lavishes on the reader a heartfelt enthusiasm for all things garden.

The author does have his own opinions, writing from his point of view as a British bachelor in the early/mid 20th century. Easily passed muster for me, so quite harmless.

Anyone who has puttered about with soil, seeds, bulbs, and such will want to soak in and savor this telling of th
Within these pages are the delightful stories, witticisms, and sarcastic thoughts of the Mr. Beverley Nichols. I romanced the flowers right alongside him. “Our Rose” and Miss Emily made me giggle. The haunting of Mr. Stebbings was ever so humorous as told through Oldfield. And one must not forget his man Gaskin. The ever unfolding stream of flowers, trees, and vines was like a cascade burst of beauty. When I got to the end, the index of plant names was prepared by a fellow North Carolinian. I am ...more
Cynthia Egbert
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is always a glorious treat to begin one's new year with a five star read! And this one was all that I hoped for and more. I am excited to get to the sequels at some point this year. Mr. Nichols' sense of humor is sharp and delicious and his writing skills superb. Everyone has their passion and their way of hearing from God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in and for Mr. Nichols that higher power speaks to him through flowers and that is an awfully lovely way to communicate ...more
I grew up on a farm surrounded by growing things, from vegetables to perennial borders. I love gardening and nature and reading, so I've wanted to read this gardening classic for decades. Finally, thanks to ILL I was able to get a copy and I started to read with a bit of trepidation. What if I was disappointed? I needn't have worried. The opening sentences had me smiling: "Some fall in love with women; some fall in love with art; some fall in love with death. I fall in love with gardens, which i ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book had me looking up plants and flowers and trees, and grieving that I live in zone 8. I still plan to try to plant some of the plants he mentioned.

It's also a humorous book. His casual biblical references reminded me of P.G. Wodehouse. I'm hoping the other two books in the trilogy are good.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Merry Hall is a marvelous reminiscence of how the author purchased and restored a British country mansion and garden just after World War II. The tone is chatty and informal, and the writing is often hilarious, particularly when Nichols is cattily pointing up the failings of the characters who move in and out of his narrative (like Our Rose, a pretentious, artsy maker of flower arrangements). At the same time, his descriptions of his garden and his plants are lovely and poetic, and I quickly bec ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I have read this book a number of times and it has become an old friend. Sadly, the life that Beverly Nichols describes is a life no longer available. The great homes of England and the rural life supported by a small household staff and many village laborers, has gone. Reading the description of the kitchen garden, the greenhouse and orchard creates a picture of a desirable lifestyle that cannot be supported anymore. But you feel the need to recreate SOMETHING from what you have read of his gar ...more
Bunta Potter
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I was hoping for an unaffectedly entertaining book, but unaffected is the last adjective I'd apply to Beverley Nichols' style. Arch, yes, and much of the waspish humour has a studied air, but he evidently enjoyed it; his flights of snobbery and misogyny, only partly in jest I suspect, also become irritating although not surprising- they are to be found in other writers of his period and background.
The description of the garden, the scope of Nichols' ambition for it and his obsessive determinatio
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Hm. Well. Let me be the 90th person to say that parts of this book have become so politically incorrect, it's downright jarring! But then, Nichols is so wry, so playful, so unabashedly pretentious, you can't really take anything he says too personally. At least, I couldn't. I was utterly charmed.

In the book's introduction, he's quoted as saying that writing his garden books was "like arranging a bunch of mixed flowers, here a story, here a winding paragraph, here a purple passage, and suddenly t
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Quite a lark. The prose is arrestingly good - meaning you stop and re-read entire paragraphs - or get out of bed and say to whoever happens to be in the house: "listen to this." It's just after the second world war and Nichols has purchased a run down Georgian house with gardens - these are his adventures renovating both. His writing is filled to overflowing with wit and campy comments. This was a pleasure.
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ah, how lovely! And funny! This was a bit like reading a book by the love child of Forster and Von Arnim. Really enjoyed it. And I don't even like gardening all that much.
Matthew Gatheringwater
Oct 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: how-to-live
My previous entry on my "how to live" bookshelf (Hojoki: Visions of a Torn World)was written by a Buddhist ascetic who, having witnessed the horrors of war, political upheaval, and natural disaster, retreated to a ten by ten-foot cabin in the mountains. It may seem inconsistent, then, that the author of my next entry is a bon vivant rhapsodizing about his country estate. But why should there be a single answer to the question of how to live? Shouldn't the answer depend at least partially upon on ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked it, with the caveat that he might have been a major weirdo. Sparkling prose on heavenly gardening topics, oddly flecked with racist, misogynistic, anti-child mini-rants. Whew! So glad to have read it for this idiosyncratic voice, but for every paragraph of muffled hate (perhaps 10 dotted throughout book) I needed 10 whole pages of uplifting gardening pillow talk. A ride.
Yet another book by Beverley Nichols that I thoroughly enjoyed. I missed the crowd from the Allways trilogy, but Gaskin, Oldfiled and Marius are entertaining and endearing new additions to Nichols’ life.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A most enjoyable book.
Feb 05, 2010 added it
This review was written by Cavett French and posted by Lizzy Mottern.

Beverley Nichols (1893-1983) wrote widely on a variety of subjects, but for the gardener and Anglophile nothing can beat his books on gardening. Merry Hall, the first of a trilogy describing the purchase, renovation, and landscaping of a run-down Georgian manor house, is full of British humor and eccentric characters from Nichols himself to the longtime gardener who has definite opinions to the neighbors not shy with advice--so
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was expecting to like this, and I'm glad to say I did. Beverley Nichols has that kind of British, slightly acidic, and moderately hysterical voice that captures both a time and a place for me: I can see him wandering his estate, cursing his neighbors but being oh-so-polite to their faces, and impulsively opting to build a water garden rather than pay bills. I love his rhapsodizing about flowers and plants. He really captures how one can feel about his passion - it's all-consuming and peace-mak ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013
I love this man's voice! Nichols relates one quaint and cozy anecdote after another about his rehabilitation of the garden attached to the manor house he purchased after WWII. He woos the crotchety septuagenarian gardener into staying on, he can't resist buying garden sculpture, and must deal with the disapproval of his nosy neighbors (one of whom creates horrid flower arrangements for a living). Further, he loves cats! Such a fun read for anyone who loves gardening (or appreciates the pleasure ...more
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Shortly after World War II, Nichols buys a Georgian house in the country. But this book is not mainly about the house--it's about Nichols' work in reclaiming the five acres or so of neglected gardens that surround the place. Also, for the first time, we meet Nichols' neighbors--the highly competitive duo of Miss Emily and floral arranger "Our Rose," who Nichols can't help but like, despite his hatred of her taste. Miss Emily was very fond of the house's previous owner, and flinches at every atte ...more
Rebecca Huston
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keepers, non-fiction, cats
Beverley Nichols' memoir about buying and restoring a Georgian period estate. A delightful, funny read, full of gardening, cats, what not to do to a holly hedge, and a wild assortment of neighbors. A must read for those who dream of having a home in the country.

For the complete review, please go here:
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book makes me want to be a gardener. Or at least (since we are living a fairly nomadic life currently) plant a forest somewhere. He is a charming writer, as well. I giggled so often during my reading of this book and read many passages out loud to my husband. Unfortunately, Nichols doesn't have much good to say about "females", but I rolled my eyes at those parts and supremely enjoyed the rest!

The first five paragraphs captured me completely. The ended with the honest comment: "When I begi
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It took me quite a while to finish this but not the fault of the book. It seemed to need to be finished while looking out over my very simple flowers. And of course with the cat wandering the yard.
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John Beverley Nichols (born September 9, 1898 in Bower Ashton, Bristol, died September 15, 1983 in Kingston, London), was an English writer, playwright, actor, novelist and composer. He went to school at Marlborough College, and went to Balliol College, Oxford University, and was President of the Oxford Union and editor of Isis.

Between his first novel, Prelude, published in 1920, and Twilight in 1

Other books in the series

Merry Hall Trilogy (3 books)
  • Laughter on the Stairs
  • Sunlight on the Lawn

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