Most of his chapters begin with something actual – a task in hand – before the moment is dug over into a philosophical-ish aperçu. All are well made; some read true, others are squishier. The formula is much repeated. There seem more than enough insights – a glut of soft fruit – and too many come to rest in descriptions of their describe ... A good chapter retells the life history of an aphid, then, nearby, Hamer imagines himself a raindrop; on another page he’s the Minotaur. It adds up to a whole heap of curious self-regard in a book ostensibly about the need to shred the self.
... chronicles the final year he spent as the sole hired gardener on a country estate before trading his pruners for a laptop to focus on his writing ... What Mr. Hamer suggests, without quite spelling it out, is that while life is short, it can seem longer if we pay attention ... It sounds like a diminishing comparison, though in Mr. Hamer’s prose, seeing is itself an act of imagination. As the world emerges from lockdown and more of us resume our distracted lives, his quality of perception is an ideal worth remembering ... an invitation to read this world as Mr. Hamer does—with a close eye to what changes, and what does not.
Hamer here turns thoughtfully to the complex of plant and animal life he encounters over one calendar year in the 12-acre garden in Wales that he has worked for two decades, full time, for its elegant, wealthy, somewhat detached owner, the widow Miss Cashmere ... Which might be all that any humble gardener could wish for.