Book of the month: Plot 29 by Alan Jenkins

The Gardens Illustrated book of the month is Plot 29: A memoir by Allan Jenkins. Read the review by garden writer and editor, Jodie Jones. 

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Plot 29: A memoir by Allan Jenkins

 

4th Estate, £14.99
ISBN 978-0008121969

A bittersweet record of the passage of time on a London allotment, and the search for the lost family of a ‘cared for’ child.

 

Reviewer Jodie Jones is a garden writer and editor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My own allotment is plot 29 – an irrelevant coincidence, perhaps, but it is human nature to seek shared experiences when shaping our view of the world. So what do you do when you don’t know where you came from? As a ‘cared for’ child with no recollection of his birth family, Allan Jenkins – editor of Observer Food Monthly and happily married father – felt the lack of common ground on which to anchor himself.

Plot 29 starts out as a journal about life on the north London allotment that Jenkins shares with his friend (and renowned garden photographer) Howard Sooley. He charts the ebb and flow of the seasons, the comings and goings of fellow plotholders and the joy of pushing seed into soft earth, anticipating the crops that will emerge. It is beautifully observed and poetically written.

But that is not all. Winding through the narrative are faint memories of early life in a children’s home, the move to foster parents in Devon, where he learned to sow nasturtiums, and his fateful decision, in adult life, to find his birth mother. What he uncovers is disturbing. Reawakened dark memories, destabilising discoveries about people close to him, meetings with undreamed of family members, and the clinically detached notes of social workers all punctuate the text.

He records his attempts to seek therapy, to connect with blood relatives, and to cope with the recurring nightmare that has haunted him for half a century without once descending into maudlin sentimentality. His civilised tone makes the uncivilised facts of his upbringing even more shocking, but it also makes for a book that is captivating and compelling.

This book is a life-affirming acknowledgement of the gardener’s truth that however poor your plot, you hold the power in your hands to improve your lot and reap as you sow.

 

4th Estate, £14.99
ISBN 978-0008121969
 

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