I would like to apologize for the radio silence, and to give you a little update from our small corner of the world. Even though it seems very quiet at times, bound by books, work and deadlines, and softened by travel, friends, family, gardens, and a few fulfilled dreams too.
One of these fulfilled dreams has been a writing project that’s had a five-year gestation period. (Which is not long for a biography, but very long for me!) It’s called THE PICNIC, although some of you are already aware of it, having followed the progress of it on this blog. It’s an illustrated biography of Lady Joan Lindsay, the elegant but enigmatic author of the bestselling novel Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s part biography, part essay and part analysis, and yes, we DID unearth the secret to the mystery. That’s what took five long, research-intensive years!
I have to confess that, at one stage, I thought this writing project would never end. Information, leads and insights kept trickling in from kind readers and generous strangers all over the world. But in hindsight, these contributions were what made this project such a special one to work on, and I’m deeply grateful that we’ve had so much assistance from those who knew the Lindsays personally.
After three publishers vied for the book, the highly regarded publishers Hardie Grant made a offer too good to refuse. (I would have been happy to go with the other two publishers, as I know both women and they’re lovely people.) I’m pleased to say that the illustrated biography of Joan Lindsay and the story behind Picnic at Hanging Rock will be published in October / November this year (2016). It’s a beautiful story. I still tear up reading the chapter about Joan Lindsay’s last year. So I hope you all love it, too.
These pages are only mock-ups so they won’t be the final page designs, but they do offer a glimpse at the wonderful people who punctuated Joan and Daryl Lindsay’s private world. Sir Laurence Olivier is pictured above, wearing Joan’s gardening hat in the couple’s walled garden of ‘Mulberry Hill’, while the photo above that shows Sir Keith and Dame Elizabeth Murdoch (Rupert Murdoch’s parents), Joan and Daryl’s close neighbours and friends for more than half a century.
The story behind THE PICNIC is a truly remarkable story and I wish I could tell you more but it’s embargoed until Hardie Grant release further details later in the year. For now, I’m very happy to leave it in their capable hands, and move onto another terrifyingly ambitious book for Rizzoli New York, which is all about gardens: a refreshing shift from the Edwardian era and all its glamorous spirits and mysteries!
AND A FEW MORE BOOKISH THINGS…
In between all these books, I’ve been taking the time to remember old books. Old stories. Old memories. This is because my mother is moving out of her large house in the country to a smaller place and our family has been helping her move. I was coping surprisingly fine with it all until I saw Mum and Dad’s study, which is being emptied of all their books. It’s funny how things like that can make you sentimental, isn’t it? We may cull our libraries but the nostalgia for the stories we’ve read in them will always remain. So here, on the eve of Deborah, the Duchess of Devonshire’s great estate sale at Sotheby’s London (Oh, for all her garden books! I’m going to attempt to put in a few pathetically low bids…), are a few more bookish things to entertain you.
PS I’ll be back to Instagram soon! It’s been a big few months.
A GRAND LIBRARY RESIDENCE TO RENT IN PARIS
One Fine Stay, the international accommodation agency that’s much like an upmarket Airbnb, has released a coolly elegant new residence to rent in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.
Its key features are not its French doors and its Instagram-worthy vistas over grey Parisian rooftops, but its grand, Neoclassical library and its all-white salon, both pictured above. Beautiful, non? And large enough for the whole family to be happy.
More details are this grand Parisian library apartment at on One Fine Stay’s website
A WRITER’S GARDEN
I love the writings of author and garden columnist Anna Pavord, who received worldwide acclaim for her bestelling book The Tulip, but who had been penning moving and memorable pieces long before then.
There is a gorgeous video on her garden, which gives her so much literary inspiration, on the link below. There are some other lovely videos on the same site, too, including the Duchess of Devonshire’s garden at Chatsworth—all worth a look.
There was a joyful piece in the New York Times recently about the rooms in which authors work, including the beguiling study of bestselling author Jeanette Winterson. I love the enormous, light-filled artist’s studio above. What an inspirational place to work.
LIBRARIES THAT FORM THE CORNERSTONE OF BUILDINGS
We’ve recently purchased an off-the-plan apartment in a quietly sophisticated new project called OPERA
, which is located on St Kilda Road, a leafy boulevard in Melbourne. We’re not yet moving from our semi-suburban life in the greenbelt area on the edge of the city, where we can ride our bikes in the countryside and be close to my mother, who will need us in years to come, but I am certainly excited about the idea of having a city pied-à-terre again! What most attracted us about OPERA was the enormous Library downstairs.
That, I think, was even more appealing that the residents’ Wine Room, the Winter Lounge (above), the garden terraces, the restaurant, the pool and gym, and the glamorous navy-and-marble interiors of the apartments.
I’m just hoping they fill the library with good titles. Wouldn’t it be a cosy place to entertain clients or friends?
THE BOOKSHELVES OF A BESTSELLING AUTHOR
Do you read The Style Saloniste?
It’s a great blog written by former Vogue Living
features writer-turned-author Diane Dorrans Saeks,
who now lives in the US where she’s written many bestselling design and architecture books. LINK HERE
One of her recent posts was on her extensive library, which has some of the most interesting design titles I’ve ever seen. (I was touched to spot a few familiar books among them.)
She often does posts on her enormous library and always gives recs for great books. Some of her favorites are from publisher Persephone
, which discovers old novels and re-releases them. If you haven’t yet discovered Persephone, do look at their website: the titles alone make for humorous reading.
A FASHION TAKE ON LIBRARIES
I love how Net-a-Porter’s magazine The Edit recently chose a library in which to do a fashion shoot with actress Dakota Johnson. The backdrops were as charming as the clothes.
A LIBRARY SUITE TO LINGER IN
My long-suffering partner is joining me in Europe this May, while I’m there to shoot gardens (we’re also trying to plan stopovers enroute; all very complicated for this travel organizer!), and I’m trying to get him to agree to one night in this splendid place: the Library Suite of Blakes Hotel in South Kensington.
Few people know that this exists; even the celebrities who check into Blakes don’t opt for this room. It’s a real secret in London; an enormous hideaway decorated with shelves and shelves of books.
Now Blakes Hotel has lots of design and architecture books scattered around its foyer and rooms anyway, but I can’t imagine anything nicer than actually sleeping in a library.
I’ve always loved Anouska Hempel’s interior design work, particularly the British Colonial antiques and other Asian elements she incorporates from the Far East. It reminds me of the romance of travel. And how often can you say that about modern hotels?
AND THE DECAYING GRANDUER OF A LONG-FORGOTTEN LIBRARY
There was a lot of media late last year about this extraordinary place, which hides a grand but decaying library. It’s called Berkyn Manor and it’s the former home of poet John Milton who wrote Paradise Lost.
The once-elegant mansion has been empty for three decades — the last inhabitant died 26 years ago at the age of 96 — but the rooms are still filled, rather eerily, with furniture, and the library is full of books. As photographer Josephine Pugh described it: “The house was so full of personal effects that it had an eerie stillness without the owners being there. Nowhere was this more evident than in the large, first floor room which housed an untold number of pictures and objects.”
Apparently there are plans to restore the mansion and perhaps develop it as a residential estate, but let’s hope the books are saved before all the looters get in and run off with the first editions… (NB There is now security around the premise, but many fear it’s too little, and has come too late.)
Let’s just hope somebody saves those gorgeous, gorgeous book cabinets.