Review published on January 17, 2017.
A brand new book from the pen of one of my favourite authors, Sir Roy Strong. Extremely similar in style to his earlier diary dated (1967-1987), but obviously more up to date. His wit, and acerbic commentary that can bring laughter to the reader, or pathos that haunts the mind, threads throughout this book superbly.
Granted, I already hold him in very high regard, but as each book passes my eyes, I find myself more than ever, captivated by his style. This particular tome holds forth on his life after he left the public offices he held, and embarked on a career of full time author. Life has been full of ups and downs, and sometimes weeks may pass without any diary writing whatsoever, but this in no way cheats the reader, each and every day’s writing is captivating in its simplicity.
He is fortunate to have become acquainted with many people who are the movers and shakers of the British cultural scene. And, inevitably, they have aged alongside him, and this is mentioned often, as each person crosses his bows at various functions. So at a Royal Ballet gala given in Birmingham we have,
Where we sat there was P.H. hobbling along on a stick, like Carabosse in black with a bit of gold glitter, while in front of me I contemplated what was left of A.D’s. hair.
The entire book is full of comments about people I have mostly never heard of, but it is all ultimately, compulsive reading. Limited length diary entries, tell of an assortment of holidays abroad. The sights, and the architecture that befall a traveling group of people searching for culture, themselves included.
Together with his late wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman, they turned a nondescript house and a plot of land into an enchanting garden called The Laskett in Herefordshire. As these diaries detail, it is their ever changing panorama, and learning curve of gardening. The many gardens that became influential to the designing of The Laskett, from Italianate topiary to huge country mansions, are mentioned frequently, and the various design experts through the ages.
I am not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but here we have diary entries that show the myriad difficulties inherent in garden making, that can make totally absorbing reading. He became a much sought after designer of gardens for all manner of people, including Highgrove for the Prince of Wales, or an Italian section of the property formerly owned by Gianni Versace in Italy. His life within the gardening circles is astonishing, and runs through this book, giving much solace to him as his wife passed.
Eloquent and forthright, amusing and irritated, all his foibles are gathered here as an honest account of part of his life, and of those that orbit around him. I really did enjoy this book. This is a detailed glimpse into another person’s life far different from my own. I thank him for his candour and style, much missed in the present day unfortunately.
Reg Seward 5/2
Scenes and Apparitions: The Roy Strong Diaries 1988-2003
Weidenfield & Nicolson 9781474603898 hbk Nov 2016