Synopses & Reviews
In interwar France, Louis Bromfield was equally famous as a writer and as a gardener. He pruned dahlias with Edith Wharton, weeded Gertrude Stein's vegetable patch, and fed the starving artists who flocked to his farmhouse outside Paris. His best-selling novels earned him a Pulitzer--and the jealousy of friends like Ernest Hemingway. But his radical approach to the soil has aged better than his books, inspiring a wave of farmers, foodies, and chefs to rethink how they should grow and consume their food.
In 1938, Bromfield returned to his native Ohio, an expat novelist now reinvented as the squire of 1,000-acre Malabar Farm in Ohio. Transplanting ideas from India and Europe, he created a mecca for forward- thinking agriculturalists and a rural retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (who were married there in 1945). Bromfield's untold story is a fascinating history of people and places--and of deep-rooted concerns about the environment and its ability to sustain our most basic needs and pleasures.
Louis Bromfield first rose to fame in the 1920s as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist with a green thumb. He built a beautiful garden outside Paris where he threw legendary parties that attracted flower breeders, movie stars, and expatriate writers like Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway (who smoldered with jealousy over Bromfield's literary success). His novels were all bestsellers, but Bromfield's greatest passion was the soil.
In 1938, he returned to his native Ohio to transform 600 badly eroded acres into a utopian cooperative farm called Malabar. From his rural seat, Bromfield launched a national crusade to improve America's relationship with the land. He sounded the alarm about harmful pesticides like DDT years before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. And he made Malabar into America's most famous farm, a mecca for his many agricultural disciples and a country retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (who were married there in 1945).
While his novels, once read by millions and made into Hollywood blockbusters, have faded into obscurity, Bromfield's agricultural vision lives on in the farmers and chefs he inspired and the revolutionary ideas he planted more than half a century ago. A fascinating history of people, places, and deep-rooted concerns about the environment, Louis Bromfield's story is an entertaining and ultimately thought-provoking exploration of how to live.
Louis Bromfield was a World War I ambulance driver, a Paris expat, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist as famous in the 1920s as Hemingway or Fitzgerald. But he cashed in his literary success to finance a wild agrarian dream in his native Ohio, realizing that dream would cost him everything: his family, his fortune, his reputation. On his deathbed, he considered himself a failure, dismissing his struggle to revolutionize American agriculture as "ludicrous," even "pathetic." Yet the ideas he planted at his utopian experimental farm, Malabar, would inspire America's first generation of organic farmers and popularize the tenets of environmentalism years before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
A lanky Midwestern farm boy dressed up like a Left Bank bohemian, Bromfield stood out in literary Paris for his lavish hospitality and his green thumb. He built a magnificent garden outside the city where he entertained aristocrats, movie stars, flower breeders, and writers of all stripes. Gertrude Stein enjoyed his food, Edith Wharton admired his roses, Ernest Hemingway boiled with jealousy over his critical acclaim. Millions savored his novels, which were turned into Broadway plays and Hollywood blockbusters, yet Bromfield's greatest passion was the soil.
In 1938, Bromfield returned to Ohio to transform 600 badly eroded acres into a thriving cooperative farm, which became a mecca for agricultural pioneers and a country retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (who were married there in 1945).
This sweeping biography unearths a lost icon of American culture, a fascinating, hilarious and unclassifiable character who--between writing and plowing--also dabbled in global politics and high society. Through it all, he fought for an agriculture that would enrich the soil and protect the planet. While Bromfield's name has faded into obscurity, his mission seems more critical today than ever before.