A Handful of Earth: A Year of Healing and Growing

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John Murray, 2007 - Allotment gardens - 276 pages
2 Reviews

When Barney Bardsley's husband was diagnosed with cancer he was thirty-six, and their daughter just one. The family was too young for sell-by dates - there was too much to live for. And so they did.

But when he finally died, Barney felt alone and exhausted. Their savings had all gone and now she must support their child single-handedly. She would just have to take life one day at a time. She took to tending her small, scruffy allotment. Fresh air, wildlife, exercise, nature's cycles of growth and decay - she found solace in it all.

This is the diary of her year in the garden. It begins with January's brisk walks, nourishing soups, and dreams of spring. In May comes a messy abundance of bluebells, tadpoles, and honeybees. In summer the sunflowers shout. And in autumn comes a harvest of blackberries, beans and squash.

The garden's meditative atmosphere also provokes deeper musings. Barney recounts the myths and emotions associated with particular plants; she paints memories of childhood; she evokes the changes of mood as the seasons shift. Above all, she charts how her own life is slowly restored, under the garden's healing influence.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CookieDemon - LibraryThing

*This review also appears on Amazon.co.uk* Elizabeth (`Barney') Bardsley nursed her husband Tim through terminal cancer for more than ten years before he sadly succumbed to the illness. This book is ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Fluffyblue - LibraryThing

This was an audiobook, read by Ruth Sillers (who has a fantastic reading voice!). The book is about the way Barney uses her allotment to help her to come to terms with her husband's illness, and ... Read full review


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About the author (2007)

Barney Elizabeth Bardsley took a degree in languages. Throughout the 1980s she worked in London as an arts journalist. Her first book, Flowers in Hell, about women and crime, was published by Pandora Press in 1986. She then trained in T`ai Chi, and as a dancer. From 1994 to 2004 she looked after her husband Tim, during his long struggle with cancer. She now lives in Leeds - with her daughter, Molly, and dog, Muffin - teaches T`ai Chi and writes. All her spare time is devoted to her unruly garden and allotment.

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