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A question of manners (part 1)

A post about Victorian etiquette

Etiquette (/ˈɛtikɛt, -kɪt/) noun. The customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group. What is Robert Cooke to do? A new century will soon be upon him and none of the women in his circle are behaving as he expects. Have they all forgotten the rules? Rule #1: Without…
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The angel in the home

The women in the cast of Small Eden who refuse to conform

Not one of the women in Robert Cooke’s circle is behaving as he expects. His wife is speaking her mind, his mother is taking herself off to Scotland of all places, his daughters are being taught science at school (science, in the name of all that’s holy!). And he’s about to discover that the winning…
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A backward place of some 2500 souls

Robert Cooke's Carshalton

The setting for my tenth novel Small Eden is Carshalton, called Aulton in the earliest records, meaning Old Town. I have called it home for over twenty years. But what did it look like during Robert Cooke’s lifetime? The Wandle: leisure, industry and life Just eleven miles from Westminster-Bridge, the village of Carshalton is dissected…
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A potted history of pleasure gardens

In my tenth novel, Small Eden, I tell the story of how Robert Cooke creates a pleasure garden in memory of his infant sons. What exactly is a pleasure garden? The short answer is that it’s an outdoor space dedicated to pleasure. Before the eighteenth century, London had few places that fitted this description. Perhaps…
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Virtual book club: Hannah Powell introduces her award-winning memoir, The Cactus Surgeon

This week saw the launch of my tenth novel, Small Eden, which tells the story of Robert Cooke, who created a pleasure garden the the memory of his two infant sons. In keeping with the theme of nature and of gardens in particular, I’m delighted to welcome Hannah Powell, author of The Cactus Surgeon, to…
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Pondering trees

Contemplating the loss of our horse chestnut

In our back garden, almost on the boundary with our neighbour’s garden, stands a lone horse chestnut tree. It has been here longer than our house, and our house first appeared on an Ordnance Survey map in 1903. This is the time of year when the tree is just coming into leaf and, as they…
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Virtual Book Club: Ivan Wainewright introduces The Other Lives of Caroline Tangent

Winner of the Selfies Award, 2022

I’m delighted to welcome Ivan Wainewright to Virtual Book Club, my occasional interview series in which authors have the opportunity to pitch their novels to your book club. Ivan lives in Kent with his partner, Sarah, and their neurotic rescue Staffie, Remi. Before moving to Kent, he lived in North London, Leeds and Singapore. He…
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In England’s green and pleasant land

Why I decided my leading man should be an opium grower

The discovery that Mitcham – only three miles from where I live – was once the opium-growing capital of the UK made me decide that Small Eden’s leading man, Robert Cooke, should be a physic (or physick) gardener. The term has fallen out of use, but it means a grower of medicinal or healing plants….
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Setting free the parakeets

Adding to the urban myths about the origins of London's green ring-necked parakeets

No eden, small or large, would be complete without birds. Several species feature in Small Eden. First, we have the songbirds in the hedgerows and the pleasure gardens. There’s Hettie’s grey African parrot Fairfax (a personality in his own right). And then we have the green ring-necked parakeets Robert buys for his pleasure garden. I…
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Small Eden: Cover Reveal

The story behind the cover

I felt very strongly that the cover for Small Eden should have a strong local anchor. The inspiration for my tenth novel was the cottage I have called home for the past twenty-one years, built (as far as we’ve been able to ascertain) as the ticket office for pleasure gardens which opened at the turn…
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