Elizabeth Von Arnim's The solitary summer is a lovely, lyrical follow up to Elizabeth and her German garden. If anything, I enjoyed it even more than the earlier title. The book takes Elizabeth (and her garden), two years later, over the period of a summer, and provides an account of what she feels that she has achieved with the garden, what she would like to do to it, as well as reflections on her books and reading, which were wonderful.
Rather than write more about this book, I'm going to share with you some extracts from the book. I think von Arnim's writing and things that she writes about in this book are just wonderful.
"I must be by myself for the once for a whole summer through" I repeated, looking around at these things with a feeling of hardly being able to bear their beauty, and the beauty of the starry sky, and the beauty of the silence and the scent - "I must be alone so that I shall not miss one of these wonders, and have leisure to really live"
"What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden"
Von Arnim describes her library, and then the collections...
"What a medley of books there is! Here is Jane Austen leaning against Heine - what would she have said to that I wonder - with Miss Mitford and Cranford to keep her in countenance on the other side. Here is my Goethe, one of the many editions I have of him, the one that has made the acquaintance of the ice house and the poppies...Walter Pater, Matthew Arnold, Thoreaum Lewis Caroll....various American children's books I loved as a child and read and loved to this day; various French children's books for the same reason, whole rows of German children's books on which I was brought up...and I verily believe, every gardening book and book about gardens that has been published of late years"
The book has been published three times by Virago, with an Italicised green cover, and two more recent ones. My copy, which Virago kindly sent me, is the