So far, my reading this year has been pretty scattered. I can’t really focus on any one book, and there’ve been non-bookish things that have kept me busy. But this week, I did read (and finish) one book, and not only did I like it, it also tied so many things together for me that I am almost more excited about that than the book itself.
It started with Li Ang’s The Lost Garden, which has just been published by Columbia University Press. I read the beginning and then suddenly noticed a book with the same title sitting on one of my shelves and started reading that one. That was Helen Humphreys’ The Lost Garden, a quiet book about love, loss, and longing.
It takes place in early 1941, when Gwen Davis, a gardener by profession, volunteers for the Women’s Land Army and leaves London to grow potatoes and other vegetables as part of the war effort. While she is cultivating the grounds of a long-neglected estate, she finds a secret garden and is trying to decipher its meaning based on her knowledge of the flowers that are planted in it. Not only does the book talk about love and loss quite beautifully, but it is also a love letter of sorts to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
And wouldn’t you know it… I have To the Lighthouse sitting on my nightstand right now. I’m reading it very slowly as part of Heavenali’s Woolfalong, and I am loving it even more now than I did when I read it in high school, when I had a great teacher who suggested we read Woolf during our class trip to England. (My very first Woolfalong of sorts.) Incidentally, during this trip, we toured an estate with extensive gardens, and while they were the complete opposite of “long neglected,” I can completely picture Humphreys’ lost garden tucked away somewhere on that estate. So I am full of happy memories and what-if thoughts at the moment.
On top of all this, while reading Humphreys’ book, there was something in the way of the writing that rang a bell in the back of my mind, way back. Something felt familiar, although I wasn’t quite sure what it was. When I finally read that Humphreys now resides in Ontario, I had an inkling of where I could look. And sure enough, a while back, Naomi reviewed Helen Humphreys’ Coventry. Naomi echoes some of the same sentiments I felt while reading The Lost Garden, so maybe once I know what the deal is with Li Ang’s Lost Garden, when I am done with To the Lighthouse, and when I feel the need for another quiet book, I can pull out Humphreys’ Afterimage or The Evening Chorus. For now, though, I am simply happy that so many small bookish things have come together for me this week.
Do you have any stories about bookish coincidences that somehow suddenly all made sense?