Friday, January 18, 2008

Book Review -- Radical Prunings by B.T. Abbott

I'm working on a blog post about moss, but in the meantime, I thought I'd post a book review for something a little different.

Bonnie Thomas Abbott's book Radical Prunings: A Novel of Officious Advice from the Contessa of Compost is written in the style of short newsletters -- that is, each "chapter" of the novel is actually a newsletter called "Radical Prunings," published by Miss Mertensia Corydalis. Miss C is a master gardener who opens each newsletter with some musings about her garden, certain plants she loves or hates, her employees (the dashing Tran and his obfuscating little sister Miss Vong), and her awful ex-husband, celebrity gardener Norton Doyle. Then she launches into a Q&A, written sort of like an advice column, with fictional people writing in fictional gardening questions, and Miss Corydalis. . . well. . . Miss Corydalis pretty much sniping their heads off and calling them all stupid for daring to have questions in the first place.


And here's where I struggled a bit with this novel. You see, in my experience, "snarky" is only the same thing as "funny" one time out of ten when it's being heavily employed. And since Miss C is always snarky (especially when answering lawn questions, which by the third one begs the question, "Why keep answering lawn questions, if you hate them so much?"), that means this novel of 235 pages is only amusing for about 23.5 pages.

Oh, I'm being facetious -- this novel is actually pretty amusing, and it really got me excited for spring to hurry up so I could get out into the dirt (I also learned a few things, one of which I'll be talking about a bit in my upcoming post on moss). But I confess I almost quit reading it about thirty pages in. You see, as a librarian whose job it is to answer questions, stupid or not, I can't help but bristle when rookies get the slap-down from snooty know-it-alls instead of just an answer to their question, simple and clear and without patronizing judgment.

Luckily, I stuck with it, and Miss C started to lighten up a bit on her readers by about the midpoint. After that, she even managed to get me to chuckle a few times out loud. As it turns out, this is a pretty entertaining little novel, and if Miss Corydalis ever puts together another collection of her newsletters, I will definitely put it on my to-read list.

All in all, I definitely recommend this one, especially if you're looking for something light to help you get through the dark days of January. But, seriously, Miss C, you would've made a truly abominable librarian. Don't quit your day job!

Have you read any good books about gardening lately (fiction or nonfiction)? If so, share 'em in comments!

1 comment:

bgeertgens1 said...

Just out.... a brand new little booklet called "The Moss Master's Guide to Creative Moss Gardens". The author, Dave Hillis, is a master gardener.

This little booklet gives detailed instructions for the construction in your moss garden of some very unique animal shapes, made of moss. The booklet has plenty of pictures, to help with the instructions.

The author calls his designs "moss garden menageries".

The website contains lovely pictures of some of the author's gardens. The link to the website is