Oxford University Museum of Natural History
The sea is calm and the combers are out on the beach, stirring the pebbles with sticks and prodding the shiny piles of seaweed, until they find what they are looking for.
8 Prairie books NOW winter 2014
SOWING THE SEEDS
Landscape architect pens second novel.
By Bev Sandell Greenberg.
For a landscape architect to become a novelist may seem like a giant leap but not for author Rosie Chard.
“The move from landscape architecture, creating something via a drawing, to writing, creating something via words, has been a fascinating one for me,” says Chard.
“I’ve spent my life as a landscape designer, visualizing something that isn’t there, and there are many similarities with the writing process. Garden design involves thinking about colour, scale, rhythm, movement, tension, juxtaposition, contrast and time scales, all of which I think about during the writing of a novel.”
Inspiration for her second novel, The Insistent Garden, came from two main sources. “The starting point was the broad idea of a wall,” says Chard. “My initial research focused on large scale borders that are erected between entire countries, such as the US/Mexico border fence and the Berlin wall. I was interested in how animosity and even hate were perpetuated on each side between people who had never met each other.”
She was also inspired by two English gardens, Rousham, an 18th century landscape garden in Oxfordshire and Snowshill, a 20th century garden in Gloucestershire. Dotty Hands, one of Chard’s characters was named after a scullery maid who worked at Snowshill Manor over 200 years ago.
Set in the East Midlands in 1969, The Insistent Garden centres around Edith Stoker, an 18-year-old woman living a circumscribed existence with her widowed father, Wilf. To make matters worse, Wilf’s sister, Vivian, visits every few weeks, barking orders at Edith and treating her like a servant. Wilf’s main pastime is building a wall high enough to block out the view of his next-door neighbour’s house because of a long-standing feud. Enter Dotty Hands, an older woman who befriends Edith. Together they visit Snowshill after which Edith decides to plant her own garden – an experience that changes her life.
“Edith’s garden represents the notion of locus amoenus – an idealized place of safety and comfort,” says the author.
“But her garden isn’t passive, it is insistent. It slips seeds into the back of shoes, it finds its way into the house as Edith carries a rose to the kitchen table, but most importantly it creeps into Edith’s psyche and gives her the confidence to question her circumstances for the first time in her life.”
Chard grew up and worked in England, then left for Copenhagen in 2000. In 2005, she moved to Winnipeg and published her first novel, Seal Intestine Raincoat, a story about climate change. The book garnered a 2010 Alberta book award and received four nominations for other Canadian literary awards.
Chard feels that her target audience is broad. “Garden lovers will hopefully like it, mystery lovers too. But most importantly I hope the book will appeal to readers who want something that is different to what they expect.”