Friday, 5 June 2020

Mrs Noah's Garden by Jackie Morris illustrated by James Mayhew Reviewed by Adèle Geras

There has been much talk of gardens in the last couple of months. Lockdown has made everyone  aware of their importance. Those who are fortunate enough to have one thank their lucky stars and wonder how those with no garden are managing. To be without one seems a terrible deprivation. Delightfully,  just at the right time, this book appears and what it does is give everyone who reads it a small space where they get to enjoy the pleasures of growing things in a format that they can carry around in their hands and return to again and again. 

This book sees the return of the Morris/Mayhew team which brought us the wonderful Mrs Noah's Pockets.  The worry with sequels to beloved books is that they're not going to be as good as the first book. There are no such worries here, of course. Mrs  Noah's Garden is joyous and colourful and inspired  and we can enjoy the two books equally.

This story is an account  of how Noah and Mrs Noah and their children find an initially unpromising  spot to in which to settle. But undeterred, they clear the space, build and put together a dwelling place, and above all, plant a garden. Mrs Noah of course is the one who goes out at night when all are sleeping and plants it. And it grows and provides bounty and beauty and becomes a  perfectly glorious garden, 

I have to apologise for the really woeful quality of the photos here. Sometimes the pictures I take of illustrations work quite well but if I'm honest, these come NOWHERE NEAR conveying the richness and depth of colour and deliciously free, almost casual style of Mayhew's collages. It's as though he's tipped out all the loveliness that he can lay his hands on for our delectation and we can rejoice in each image and every detail set out before us. It's a book whose   pages are so crowded with beauty that every spread repays many revisitings. 

Jackie Morris, as all readers of this blog know, is a brilliant artist in her own right but here her medium is words and she uses them with great elegance.  I will end this review by quoting a passage, to give readers an idea of what the text is like. And I do encourage  everyone, whether they have their own open spaces or not, to buy this  conveniently portable garden to cheer them and remind them of hope and possibility. It's a real treasure of a book and one of my favourite pages describes a family meal.

"At the heart of the garden a beautiful awning stretched over  a table laden with food. Mr and Mrs Noah sat in the willow bower, side by side, a heart of honeysuckle threading through the branches."

Published in Hardback by Otter Barry Books  £12.99



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