You might be wondering why I would recommend a series of gentle home and garden books recounting an English gentleman’s town and country lifestyle. Beginning in the 1930s and moving onward at a slow pace, at first glance, Beverley Nichols’ books might not seem to have much to offer modern day readers.
The setting and pace of the books might be gentle, but the author is far from gentile when recounting his experiences with nosy neighbours, female gardeners, and lazy servants. And yet, he remains likeable. Much of that is due to his humour, and he also wins points for relating several useful tips, such as the best methods for transporting and arranging flowers, and how to find out if your neighbour has cheated and bought plants in pots rather than growing them from seed.
Nichols is one of those lovable aristocratic types. He often doesn’t even seem to realize when he’s being a dick, or is gleeful in his calculated dickish behaviour. He also has that talent of the clever and privileged for talking openly about his personal life while neither hiding nor revealing the details. It’s not difficult to figure out that he slept with more than one of his frequent male houseguests, for instance. From what I gather, Nichols was quite the wild one, with a penchant for rough trade; easily believable from what we see of his rakish personality.
I haven’t yet read his entire home and garden series (there are 11 in all), and I think I’ve lost the correct order, but I haven’t found that it matters a whole lot. The books stand well on their own. Nichols was prolific, authoring several other books, novels, and plays. He must’ve been fun to hang out with, and he had several well-known friends and enemies. Bratty, intelligent, and very human, his narrative books make for good bedtime reading – stuff that lulls you to sleep with a few laughs, and visions of thatched roof cottages and winter flowers dancing in your head.