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The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden

Alain Baraton
Rizzoli Ex Libris
Publication Date: 

Cloth, 290 p., $26.95.

Alain Baraton first applied for a job at Versailles as a young man in 1976. He was hired as a ticket seller. After a few months, the head gardener, Choron, discovered that Baraton had been to horticultural school and offered him a job as a gardener, which included housing in the park, and as Baraton says, “I accepted his offer and my life truly began.” He was eventually appointed head gardener. The book begins with a description of the dreadful storm on December 26, 1999, that destroyed many of the treasured old trees. Subsequent chapters trace the history of Versailles along with fascinating stories about its royal inhabitants. Baraton also provides the reader with wonderful anecdotes concerning tourists and some of the regulars who visited the garden frequently, many of them quite eccentric. His final paragraph tells of the three Versailles he has known: the “aging but terribly beautiful” gardens that were destroyed in 1999, the “wounded park" left by the storm, and now the gardens that are reborn but do not yet have the old charm. He is an engaging storyteller who has written many books on Versailles, but this is the only one available in English. Baraton also hosts gardening programs on French radio and television. If you have visited Versailles, this book will remind you of that gorgeous setting. If you have not, it will inspire you to do so with the help of Baraton's suggestions for a perfect tour.
— Joan Richards, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden