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Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
Gardening seems to be in our DNA – human beings have created gardens throughout history and across the globe. Its impact on our mental and physical wellbeing is no better illustrated than through journalist and photographer Lalage Snow’s touching portraits of those striving to grow and tend their gardens in war zones. Whether in Afghanistan, The West Bank, Israel or the Ukraine, peace and beauty is sought through horticulture.
‘A remarkable book . . . It’s a powerful testament to the healing balm of gardening and the resilience of the human spirit in the direst of circumstances.’ Financial Times
‘Not a happy book and yet it’s magically heartening. It makes a gardener question his or her values.’ The Times
‘This extraordinary book…warm and engaging…like a photograph magicked to life.’ Spectator
‘Snow has spent ten years as a photographer and filmmaker covering unrest . . . Throughout that time she has sought comfort in green oases and come to understand “how vital gardens are ‘against a horrid wilderness’ of war”. . . There can be few counter-narratives as enchanting and sad as those Snow recounts in War Gardens.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘For all these victims of war, their gardens are places in which to breathe, providing moments of calm, hope and optimism in a fragile life of horror and uncertainty. For many, it helps them to grieve. Books seldom bring a lump to my throat, but this one did.’ Spectator
‘What makes War Gardens the most illuminating garden book to be published this year, is the realisation that people’s gardens are the antidotes to the horrors of their surroundings.’ Country Life
A journey through the most unlikely of gardens: the oases of peace people create in the midst of war
In this millennium, we have become war weary. From Afghanistan to Iraq, from Ukraine to South Sudan and Syria, from Kashmir to the West Bank, conflict is as contagious and poisonous as Japanese knotweed. Living through it are people just like us with ordinary jobs, ordinary pressures and ordinary lives. Against a new landscape of horror and violence it is up to them to maintain a modicum of normality and colour. For some, gardening is the way to achieve this.
Working in the world’s most dangerous war zones, freelance war correspondent and photographer Lally Snow has often chanced across a very moving sight, a testimony to the triumph of the human spirit in adversity, a celebration of hope and beauty: a war garden. In Kabul, the royal gardens are tended by a centenarian gardener, though the king is long gone; in Camp Bastion, bored soldiers improvise tiny gardens to give themselves a moment’s peace; on both sides of the dividing line in Jerusalem families tend groves of olives and raise beautiful plants from the unforgiving, disputed landscape; in Ukraine, families tend their gardens in the middle of a surreal, frozen war.
War Gardens is a surprising, tragic and beautiful journey through the darkest places of the modern world, revealing the ways people make time and space for themselves and for nature even in the middle of destruction. Illustrated with Lally Snow’s own award-winning photography, this is a book to treasure.
This extraordinary book…warm and engaging…like a photograph magicked to life. * Spectator *
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