A COUNTRY LIFE: At Home in the English Countryside

Roy C. Strong, Author, Julia Trevelyan Oman, Illustrator , illus. by Julia Trevelyn Oman. St. Martin's $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-312-30709-7

Flowery language abounds in this slim collection of diary-like musings by Strong, former director of Britain's Victoria & Albert Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Now a critic, historian and garden designer to such clients as Prince Charles, Elton John and the late Gianni Versace, Strong cuts a broad swath on the English arts scene. Thankfully, his upper crustiness is softened by eccentric charm, making these dispatches from his country estate, the Laskett, an entertaining choice for armchair gardeners and society wannabes. Published in Britain's Country Life magazine from 1989 to 1994, the entries are seasonally arranged, chronicling the ins and outs of daily life in Herefordshire. "At the Laskett," Strong writes, "I know that spring is really here when the pleached lime avenue we call Elizabeth Tudor is thickly carpeted with daffodils... and also when the fountain, emptied for the duration of winter, spurts and sparkles once again in the light outside the breakfast room window." Autumn's first frost "[causes] us to retreat from conservatory to dining room to eat." Winter heralds the passing of Strong's beloved cat Reverend Wenceslas Muff, who is succeeded by William Larkin Esq. and Herzog Friedrich von Sans Souci, kittens whom Strong trains to walk on a leash. An opening article reprinted from Hortus describes the house and garden ("the largest formal garden in England to be planted from scratch since 1945") in detail. B&w sketches by Strong's wife, Oman, a designer for film, television and theater, add to the volume's unique appeal. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 160 pages - 978-1-85793-443-4
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