The Road to Le Tholonet: A French Garden Journey by Monty Don

Book Review:

The Road to Le Tholonet
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I was away for the weekend visiting family in Glasgow, I flew from London Stansted airport; having two flights and the inevitable waiting time at either end I decided to make a start on Monty’s book. I’m reading it on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, a wonderful invention that allows me to take lots of digital books on my travels but has the obvious disadvantage that it isn’t a physical book, so you don’t get the feel and smell of a book and I do miss these, but the advantages are greater than the drawbacks for me.

This is not a gardening book, it’s a book about some of the French gardens that Monty has visited since he was a teenager and he discusses those famous and those not so well known with the same enthusiasm and rigour. There’s a mighty range here over a long time-scale. Most of the big names are covered: Giverny, Versailles, Villandry, The Tuileries Gardens as are many much less well known and some that are traditionally not thought of as gardens, not all are liked so this isn’t Monty’s favourite French gardens, this is a personal view not a coffee table book on tourist gardens, not a travel book in that sense, it’s too edgy to fall into any of those categories.

There are chunks of autobiography and personal philosophy scattered through it making it an intimate read, the story of any one garden and his reactions to it being enhanced by his description of when and why he visited it, he has had a lot of different reasons for visiting gardens, not all of them a straightforward wish to see a particular place. Monty writes with passion and enthusiasm, his language can be earthy, but you are with him in these gardens and his discussions of the differences between French and British gardeners are thought provoking. He describes the gardens, and people he meets in them, forcefully. This is a book for gardeners, travelers, biography readers, Francophiles and Anglophiles alike and well worth reading.

15 Replies to “The Road to Le Tholonet: A French Garden Journey by Monty Don”

  1. You’ve done fine. I tend to build my (very few) blog entries in Word, with all it’s bells and whistles and the cut and paste it into my blog. I appreciate the fact that you take the time to ponder your posts and worry about the quality of the writing. Not everyone does. 🙂

    1. Yes, but how to find the time and money. Oh well, we’ll see what we see, I suspect people like Monty are driven nearly insane by the pressure to view, comment and move on to the next garden.

  2. This is a book I would really like to read – I might invest in a Kindle version for my next trip – I seem to do most of my reading when I am on holiday these days! I was lucky to see Monty live at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on Friday – he speaks as well as he writes so it was an inspirational evening.

    1. Hi Julie
      I recommend it, he is a great communicator. I didn’t know he was in Bury on Friday, I live only 17 miles away and might well have gone had I known, not to worry, perhaps next time. Thanks for your comment, I’m new to blogging so get a real thrill when someone does.

      1. If you have a look at the Aoex website he is back in March to do the show again. You are doing very well with your new blog – I can remember the thrill of my receiving my first comment.

  3. I’ve two of his gardening books and they are, by far, my favorite gardening books. He doesn’t seem to be very well known in my part of New England, but I think he should be.

    1. Which ones do you have? I’ve got Tholonet, The Ivington Diaries and Jewel Garden, and have enjoyed them all. During the gardening season, May to October over here, he’s on BBC TV hosting Gardener’s World every week.

      1. Urban Jungle, The Simple Way to Tame your Town Garden, published by Headline Book in 1998, and The Complete Gardener, US edition published 2003. “Complete” is in italics, which I think is funny (good funny not odd funny). They are guides, useful for inspiration and ideas and reference. Gorgeous pictures, well written. I see references to the Jewel Garden in them, but I don’t own the ones you mention, will have to look them up.

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