No, this isn't a blog about how to give your home or garden a makeover - unless you want it to look like it came out of a book!
A few weeks ago I was sent an email by a company asking me to put a link on my website for their company. At first I was interested. The company appeared to be a publisher and publiciser of books and ebooks. But it was only after I received a second email that I followed the link that had been sent to me and realised that they were in actual fact a curtain and upholstery company. Needless to say, I won't be advertising their company on my website because most people come to my site for information about me rather than who I'd recommend to make their new curtains! But for some reason the website did have a page on fictional homes, which was quite intriguing and gave me the idea for this blog...
Homes and gardens feature significantly in literature. There are homes that would be amazing to live in, others that I'd want to visit, and some that I'd only look at from a distance! Here are some of my favourites.
Top of my list is Bag End in The Hobbit. Bag End is a Hobbit-hole, but it is definitely no dirty, smelly hole in the ground. It's a place of warmth and comfort, a smial as Tolkien calls it, and it has always brought a smile to my face. Given the choice, I'd definitely make an offer on this property!
Location: Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire
The owner: Bilbo Baggins. Bag End was built to a luxuriously high standard by Bilbo's father Bungo Baggins for his wife, Belladonna Took.
Specs: countless rooms all situated on one floor with original features, panelled walls, tiled floors, polished furniture, round windows with views over lush gardens and meadows. There are ample pantries, large wine cellars, and several guests rooms. Bag End is a cosy property in an idyllic setting amongst green fields and orchards. Be prepared for the unexpected visitor - short of stature, wide of girth, possibly wielding an axe, or an exceedingly tall gentleman dressed in grey robes, who may lead you astray!
The Hobbit was one of my favourite books when I was young, and it still is, so Bag End is full of memories for me. I would very happily live there, and being only five foot tall, I would have no problems with the low ceilings, although Tolkien does tell the reader that taller visitors would have no problems, so perhaps the ceilings are actually not as low as people might think.
Misselthwaite Manor in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett has over a hundred rooms, but I'm not sure I'd like to live in such a huge property, and with a recent death in the family, a shadow hangs over the manor. It's the gardens that hold all the allure - from their winter bleakness to their summer bloom.
Owner: Archibald Craven. Occupants: Colin Craven, Mary Lennox, Martha Sowerby and Ben Weatherstaff.
Both the house and the garden are full of secrets, which Mary gradually uncovers. She finds a key in the garden, and it unlocks not only a door, but other hidden secrets too. I loved the book when I read it many years ago. I wanted to find a key that would open hidden doors. I wanted a garden like the one in the book. I still love exploring old houses and gardens, and making up stories about them - I suspect I still haven't grown up yet!
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was about a young orphan girl adopted by brother and sister Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert. It was set in a small farming community and followed Anne and her adventures as she tried to make this place her home.
Location: Green Gables, Avonlea, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Occupants: Marilla Cuthbert, Matthew Cuthbert, Anne.
Green Gables is a farmhouse surrounded by orchards and fields and woods, with a view over the Lake of Shining Waters and the Haunted Wood.
Avonlea and Prince Edward Island have become a tourist attraction by developing the area based on Montgomery's books, but I don't need to see the actual place where Anne Shirley grew up, or sit in the real Avonlea and drink raspberry cordial soda. Green Gables and the trials and tribulations of Anne Shirley have a special place in my memories.
Hill House in The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, is definitely not a place I'd like to live in. I'm not sure I even want to visit it. "Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it has stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more." So you can understand why I might only look upon it from a great distance, but venture no closer!
Location: Remote, near the village of Hillsdale.
Occupants for the summer: Dr. John Montague, an anthropologist with an interest in the paranormal, and Luke Sanderson (heir to the house). Staying visitors: Eleanor and Theodora, Mrs. Montague and Arthur Parker - all share an interest in the supernatural.
In daylight, the house seems like any other large house. Surrounded by large gardens, pretty paths, bubbling brooks, and a cosy living room with an open fire to retreat to when the light begins to fade. But do not be fooled.
I probably read this book too young. No, I definitely read this book too young, which is why very large empty houses on huge estates hold no appeal to me - especially at night. I would never live in Hill House even if it was going for a song, but if you have a special interest in haunted houses then this is the one you should consider - just be prepared for creaking doors, strange cold spots, and the occasional bump in the night!
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