I’m delighted to welcome Juliet Greenwood to One More Page today with a guest post about her research for her latest novel, Eden’s Garden. Eden’s Garden is an historical time-slip with a mystery at its heart, set partly now and partly in the Victorian era and based in London, Wales and Cornwall. It was the Welsh Books Council’s ‘Welsh Book of the Month’ in May and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Welcome Juliet!
I loved doing my research for ‘Eden’s Garden’. It combined my passion for gardens and for women’s history. Oh, and with an absolute necessity to take myself off in a camper van and explore the coastline of Cornwall once more!
‘Eden’s Garden’ is a time-slip, set partly now and partly in Victorian times. At the heart of the novel is a forgotten Victorian garden, so much of my research meant visiting gardens that dated from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The original inspiration actually came from a garden I had been driving past regularly for most of my life, but only discovered a few years ago.
Juliet in Brondanw
Brondanw Gardens, in Southern Snowdonia, was the family home of Clough Williams Ellis who created nearbyPortmeirion. It lies halfway between my home in North Wales and where my family live. It’s small, but with Portmeirion’s quirkiness, and a real atmosphere, especially the wilderness gardens which have a slightly lost and forlorn feeling about them. I visited many other gardens – such as Erddig near Wrexham and Bodnant gardens in the Conwy Valley – for ideas, but Brondanw was the one I came back to.
The garden in Plas Eden in the book is one that has been created out of love. In Brondanw there is a real sense of someone with a deep love of plants, of people, of the dramatic mountain landscape, and of a sheer joy in life itself. It’s the feeling you get in Portmeirion, but on a much more intimate scale. That’s what I wanted to capture for Plas Eden; not so much the physicality as the atmosphere. I still love going back to visit Brondanw in all its seasons. In a funny sort of way it now feels as if it has become part of me.
Camping above St Ives
And Cornwall? That was wonderful. A real adventure. I took off in an ancient mini-campervan, just me and my dog and the SatNav exploring the southern Cornish coastline from St Austell to St Ives, and then up the north Cornish Coast to Devon and Ilfracombe.
For the Victorian strand of the book, I had been researching the lives of women from a time when we had few rights and very little freedom: a time when you were the property of your father, then your husband, with no legal existence of your own. Finding the Cornish locations for my Victorian heroine made me appreciate my own life as never before. For those two weeks I was utterly self-reliant and in control. Even the SatNav had to obey me (eventually) when I chose the picturesque rather than the practical route!
Emily the Camper Van
When I was planning the trip, I never thought that wandering down to Coverack on the Lizard for fish and chips, or simply sitting in my van above St Ives watching the sun set, would be a part of my research. But it was. It made me realise that it’s so easy to take freedom for granted. Just the simple ability to decide where you are going the next day, let alone the entire direction of your life. Tha
nks to all my research for ‘Eden’s Garden’, I will never, ever take that freedom for granted again.
Thank you Juliet for a lovely post and beautiful pictures.
Eden’s Garden is out now in paperback and Kindle format ( bargain hunters – the Kindle copy is just 99p/$1.55 at the moment!)
You can find out more about Juliet and Eden’s Garden at: http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/ and on her blog at: http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/