Capability's Eden

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9780002259088: Capability's Eden

The great English gardening novel?

This is an extremely intelligent, well-written, consistent and stimulating English novel about a gardener and a garden. No common-or-garden gardener is he, though, but rather a celebrated landscape architect, Robert Boyd – whose hero is Capability Brown – called in by those blessed with gardens big enough to be landscaped. One such couple, the Laceys – she flamboyant and American, he reserved and English – invite him to their Cornwall home, where on a strange isthmus of land they’d like him to re-create, er, The Garden of Eden. And this he sets about doing, quartering it with water, bussing in flamingoes and deer, replanting trees and shrubs, etc All under the vigilant eyes of the very charismatic wife and the rather sceptical husband, who has in turn a widowed sister who, Mrs Rochester-style, has been confined to a cottage on a hill nearby, to which our narrator repairs for a little telescope-gazing, history lessons and some brutal sex. Meanwhile, through encounters with his ex and his daughter in Oxford and back home in Norfolk, we come to see Boyd’s weaknesses as a man; he is married to his work and then some. The project devours him, and all who come into contact with it, including two Hardyesque naturals, a pair of local brothers who come to be the instruments of his creation. But not everyone can agree that what is being done, to the land, to lives, is the right thing. Conflicts simmer, tempers fray, accidents happen, someone dies. The story is brought to a good crescendo and a satisfying resolution.

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From the Back Cover:

Robert Boyd is a celebrated landscape architect, in a business which, he accepts, is often about dealing with people, not plants. He is at the peak of his career when he is offered a project no gardener could refuse – the re-creation of the Garden of Eden itself. This extraordinary challenge comes from an enigmatic couple, the Laceys – David, reserved and English; Virginia flamboyant and American – who own a beautiful, strange isthmus of land near the Cornish coast.

Though reluctant at first, Robert is soon immersed in the fascination of turning his clients' dream into reality: planting trees, creating watery idylls, populating the island with deer and flamingos – all under the vigilant eyes of the charismatic Virginia and the secretive gaze of David's estranged sister.

But the harmony Robert seeks to create in nature finds no parallel in his own life: over the years his dedication has taken a toll on his family and his own capacity for love. And even as he strives to construct his own representations of Paradise, he finds he is caught between frictions he has provoked in the real world – with shocking consequences. Robert, for the first time ever, is forced to examine the way he lives his life. What he discovers about himself is devastating . . .

At the heart of this gripping drama, Diana Saville has created a superb portrait of a man who had a way of life that he loved and must learn to value again. Wonderfully lyrical in its descriptions of the natural world, of gardens and of the passion and obsession they inspire, 'Capability's Eden' is Diana Saville's most astute, affecting and entertaining novel yet.

“There is a clarity and intelligence about Diana Saville's writing which is most appealing. She knows how to convey a passion for the natural world, and her knowledge really shines through.”
HELEN DUNMORE

About the Author:

Diana Saville worked at a literary agency in London, before moving to the Welsh Marches, where she has become a writer and garden designer. She has written novels and books on landscape gardening and garden history.

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