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War Gardens – A Journey Through Conflict In Search Of Calm by Lalage Snow


Sometimes the woes of the world seem too much to comprehend, so we read the headlines and think there is nothing we can do. Our news comes in short, sharp bites, and it is easy to overlook the real, human face of conflict. War Gardens opens the door to the real people living in the world’s conflict zones, and their day to day survival in the midst of all the chaos.


Lalage Snow, photographer, filmmaker and writer, has been covering these areas of the world – Afghanistan, Gaza, Ukraine and Israel, for the last decade. She meets a wide array of people who have managed to find an oasis of calm within their own gardens, tending their plants with a passion that manages to transcend the horrors of the war-torn communities they live in. They grow crops to feed their families and create havens of escape from the surrounding environment.


She uncovers surprising treasures, and a determination to succeed even in the most difficult conditions – in Gaza the soil has been ruined by phosphorus damage from all the bombings. It is estimated that due to pollution and lack of water, it will be unliveable by 2020. Yet nature carries on – the bee keeper who keeps his hives in the Access Restricted Area along the Gaza Strip (because it will not be built over), explains – The bees ‘carry on trying to make honey regardless; they fly into Israel or Egypt to collect nectar. Bees do not see borders.’


This is an eye-opener of a book for anyone wanting to understand what life is like for the ordinary people caught up in the political games. Most of them just want to get on and live in peace. They want the best for their children. At the same time, it is a wonderful celebration of nature, plants and trees and the unifying effect that gardening can have, no matter where you live in the world. On both sides of a conflict zone, the same activities are taking place.


It is well written and very readable. It’s not a book about taking sides, merely pointing out that there are always stories to be uncovered, and that in the midst of chaos there is always the possibility of calm.


Reviewer: Rachel White

Quercus, $37.99

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