‘When I am disturbed, even angry, gardening has been a therapy. When I don't want to talk I turn to Plot 29, or to a wilder piece of land by a northern sea. There, among seeds and trees, my breathing slows; my heart rate too. My anxieties slip away.’
As a young boy in 1960s Plymouth, Allan Jenkins and his brother, Christopher, were rescued from their care home and fostered by an elderly couple. There, the brothers started to grow flowers in their riverside cottage. They found a new life with their new mum and dad.
As Allan grew older, his foster parents were never quite able to provide the family he and his brother needed, but the solace he found in tending a small London allotment echoed the childhood moments when he grew nasturtiums from seed.
Over the course of a year, Allan digs deeper into his past, seeking to learn more about his absent parents. Examining the truths and untruths that he’d been told, he discovers the secrets to why the two boys were in care. What emerges is a vivid portrait of the violence and neglect that lay at the heart of his family.
A beautifully written, haunting memoir, Plot 29 is a mystery story and meditation on nature and nurture. It’s also a celebration of the joy to be found in sharing food and flowers with people you love.
‘Plot 29 is a superbly written testament to the power of earth to nourish and heal. The writing is taut and honed to a sinewy strength, but rich with evocation and delight … I loved it’ Monty Don
‘The sort of book you never forget reading: devastating, haunting and utterly beautiful’ India Knight
‘An absolutely original book. Absolutely brilliant. The best family memoir I’ve read in years’ Bill Buford
‘A thoughtful and beautifully realised meditation on families and all the love, loss, pain, healing and regeneration they can bring in their wake. A remarkable achievement’ William Dalrymple
‘Allan Jenkins blooms. His garden bears fruit. Enter the seasons with him and grow. I love this book’ Lemn Sissay
‘Brave, exquisitely written and utterly compelling’ Nigel Slater
‘A compelling read … Jenkins’ story raises many questions, not least that of whether it’s possible to transcend one’s past. After his own agony, is redemption possible? Read this brilliant book, and weep’ The Herald
Allan Jenkins is editor of Observer Food Monthly. He was previously editor of the Observer Magazine, food and drink editor on the Independent newspaper and once lived in an experimental eco-community on Anglesey, growing organic food on the edge of the Irish sea.