A Handful of Earth: A year of healing and growing, By Barney Beardsley

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When Barney Beardsley's husband died after a 10-year battle with cancer, she found solace tending a small allotment. This journal of her first year in the garden is intended as a paean to the healing power of nature.

Survival narratives of one sort or another are generally irresistible, and hearing someone talk about how they coped with bereavement is, terribly, even more alluring. It doesn't even matter how those stories are told, when you hear them your mind edits out loose words and focuses on the feelings being expressed. But reading a book isn't the same as listening to someone tell a story. Getting to those feelings depends on the strength of the writing and, sadly, Beardsley isn't that good with words. There's a simplistic quality to her prose that often places it a breath away from sentimentality ("Hungarians come from powerful peasant stock") and the authorial flourishes seem banal or forced ("John was a real hell-raiser: the devil to my Dr Faustus").

John Murray £7.99