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.