The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise (Hardcover)
Named as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2024 by The Observer, BBC, Irish Times, and The Guardian
Inspired by the restoration of her own garden, “imaginative and empathetic critic” (NPR) Olivia Laing embarks on an exhilarating investigation of paradise.
In 2020, Olivia Laing began to restore an 18th century walled garden in Suffolk, an overgrown Eden of unusual plants. The work brought to light a crucial question for our age: Who gets to live in paradise, and how can we share it while there’s still time? Moving between real and imagined gardens, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to John Clare’s enclosure elegies, from a wartime sanctuary in Italy to a grotesque aristocratic pleasure ground funded by slavery, Laing interrogates the sometimes shocking cost of making paradise on earth.
But the story of the garden doesn’t always enact larger patterns of privilege and exclusion. It’s also a place of rebel outposts and communal dreams. From the improbable queer utopia conjured by Derek Jarman on the beach at Dungeness to the fertile vision of a common Eden propagated by William Morris, new modes of living can and have been attempted amidst the flower beds, experiments that could prove vital in the coming era of climate change. The result is a humming, glowing tapestry, a beautiful and exacting account of the abundant pleasures and possibilities of gardens: not as a place to hide from the world but as a site of encounter and discovery, bee-loud and pollen-laden.
About the Author
Olivia Laing is a widely acclaimed writer and critic. She’s the author of seven books, including The Lonely City, Funny Weather and Everybody. Her first novel, Crudo, was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller and won the 2019 James Tait Memorial Prize. Her work has been translated into twenty-one languages and in 2018 she was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction. She lives in Suffolk, UK.
[The Garden Against Time is a] celebration by the acclaimed writer and critic of the abundant pleasures and possibilities of gardens—not as a place to hide from the world but as a site of experiment and discovery—that ranges from pandemic Suffolk to utopian visions of a new Eden, while also examining the sometimes shocking costs of making paradise on Earth.
— Financial Times
Olivia Laing's The Garden Against Time is a close and vagrant meditation on the tended plot as real and metaphoric paradise, a potentially radical place to overwinter and come back out to hope.
— Brian Dillon - The Millions
A book that begins as beguiling and beautiful then flicks into the revelatory: the work of salvaging a ruined garden in Suffolk becomes a book about a different kind of salvation altogether. Her mind is so agile, so capacious, so widely ranging, so consistently surprising. If I had the means, I’d present her with large plots of land every year so that she could write books such as this again and again.
— Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others
A cumulative intellectual with a golden pen, Laing… connects collectivity with dirt, hand-building both private and generous new worlds as safe refuge and risky experiments.
— Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show
Laing probes important questions about land ownership and exclusion and the human drive to create paradise on earth. All the while, her elegant prose bewitches and beguiles. A truly wonderful read.
— Sue Stuart-Smith, author of The Well-Gardened Mind