Father’s book republished 70 years on

TWO sisters were given a huge surprise when they discovered that a war-time gardening book by their father had been republished 70 years on.

Zoe Rimmer, 72, was only a toddler in 1940, when her father, Alec Bristow, wrote his best-selling guide How to Run an Allotment. Her sister, Jane Nelson, 64, wasn’t even born.

The book went out of print for decades, but is now in the shops again, after publisher Beautiful Books decided it would appeal to a new generation of allotment gardeners.

“We had no idea the book was going to be republished,” said Mrs Rimmer, who lives at Thwaite, near Eye, which was also the home village of her father for many years.

“By chance my daughter’s partner came across a copy in a bookshop on the day that it was published and let me know about it – it was a real surprise.” Mrs Nelson, of Troston, near Bury St Edmunds, contacted Simon Petherick, of Beautiful Books. She said: “He explained that quite a lot of time had been spent trying to track down the author’s family, but to no avail.”


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The family realised that none of the relatives in the UK are now called Bristow, which made things difficult for the publisher.

The sisters are both delighted the book has been reprinted and that a new generation will be able to read it, including the author’s many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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“I’ve always loved the book and we all think Beautiful Books has done a lovely job with this reprint,” said Mrs Nelson.

Mr Bristow and his wife, Janet, needed to grow as much fruit and veg as possible themselves during the war to feed their family. He realised that there must be many other people in the same position – and wrote the book to give advice to others.

“The book he wrote while battling with a duodenal ulcer and struggling to keep his own large family fed became a best-seller and helped thousands of people to grow food for their own survival, while it also helped to keep the wolf from the door as far as he was concerned,” said Mrs Nelson.

The family were living in London at the outbreak of war and then moved to Devon. In the 1950s they moved to Suffolk, where Mr Bristow had a large kitchen garden and kept his family supplied with fruit and veg until the late 1990s, shortly before his death in 1999.

Mr Bristow had a long career in advertising, but his first love was gardening, and he wrote a number of books including another best-seller, The Sex Life of Plants.

judy.geater@eadt.co.uk

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