I’ve finally got round to reading Fiona Stafford’s The Brief Life of Flowers, and what a wonderful read it is. Its elegant, beguiling and scented prose, brings the wonder of plants alive.
The opening chapter describes a very personal floral journey for the author, brought up as the child of a military family, with one canvas after another available to paint with flowers.
I found the included quote from poet John Drinkwater to apply as much to a landscape (as he, and author Fiona Stafford intended), as it does to this book:
[the less a place (this book)] “may seem to assert itself, the more profoundly will it possess us, instruct us, become memorable.”John Drinkwater
After the introduction, entitled ‘Springs’, there are 15 chapters, each featuring a popular flower, from the bluebell and daisy, to the snowdrop and sunflower, via the ghost orchid and gillyflower (which I learnt is the old name for a wallflower).
In the Lime Flowers chapter, the reader visits mastercarver Grinling Gibbons, has a fleeting visit to traditions of illicit behaviour in Germany, and learns about the wonders of lime honey. This is a typical experience in the book, which at all times holds the attention of the reader with deft hands. The author manages to dazzle the reader with poetry, prose, history, entomology, botany, and much more. While the writing is rich and fertile, it is also very accessible and likely to appeal to a wide readership.
This wondrous book emulates the common poppy it features: “short, brave, brilliant.”
Fiona Stafford (2019). The Brief Life of Flowers, John Murray. £10.99 RRP.
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Deadline 23:59, 22nd June 2019.
I am grateful to the publishers for providing me a copy of this book. This was not in exchange for a review, favourable or otherwise.
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