First published 1987 by Hudson Publishing in association with Angus & Robertson.
Of all of Kate Llewellyn’s writing; poetry, essays, memoir, travelogue, what I like best is her journals. Husband dying, dead? Stepson in jail for murder? Out they come.
I read The Waterlily about once a year, mainly when life is really tough. The book begins three months after Llewellyn has moved to the Blue Mountains, and tracks a year of her life. In all of her journals, the big events of life are kept well in the background where, if you ask me, they belong, when it comes to any really good writing. The emphasis is on small joys, and the prose is as poetic as a good poet can get away with.
Her opening lines have way of racketing around in my brain. “When I came to live in the mountains I was determined to be happy. Sparrows were pecking the pale green and white shoots from the tree outside the kitchen as I made the first cup of tea for the day.” Each journal entry contains little observations such as, “The first tulip is out today. It is red with a black heart like a Norse helmsman. If it were a person it would be called Eric.” An unhappy affair is also woven into the story of her garden.
The Waterlily is the first book of the Blue Mountains Trilogy, written the 1980s. It is not a true trilogy, and The Waterlily is better regarded as a stand-alone book. While the second and third books do follow on a little after the previous book has ended, these are both books of letters, Dear You to a lover, and The Mountain to her daughter. I find I enjoy the journal writing better because it is more personal, written for you the reader, instead of someone else.
Despite the book’s many merits, Kate Llewellyn remains fairly unknown, even in her home state of South Australia which is a pity, but her writing is not for everyone. You will not get any enjoyment out of it if you are not a passionate gardener or lover of nature. And even if you are, it still may not gel with you. I lent one of her more recent books to a friend who has similar tastes in books, but after six months she still hadn’t finished it. Even though she said she liked it. So there you go.
But for me the writing is so soothing that the comfort that it gives is second only to that of the Good Book. It is literary Valium. [Please do not confuse this with literary sleeping tablets!]