No Place Like Home by Beverley Nichols

No Place Like Home was first published in 1936. I started reading Beverley Nichols books after buying a couple of lovely old editions of his – Down the Garden Path and A Thatched Roof. I enjoyed those ones and it was when I was trying to find the third one of that trilogy on the internet that I came across this book and just bought it, not having any idea what it was about but having a fair idea that I would enjoy it – which I did.

Beverley Nichols travels from his home in England to Austria where his lack of language skills meant that he ended up spending his first night there in a sanatorium for TB sufferers, instead of a luxurious hotel. When he did get to a hotel things weren’t much better due to the strange man who was in the room next to his. I must say that it was a comfort to discover that Beverley Nichols experienced nutty neighbours, just as we did in earlier days.

By coincidence a lot of the countries which Nichols visited were the same as those visited by Patrick Leigh Fermor in his book Between the Woods and the Water just a few years earlier, but the books are very different, although neither of them comment much on the politics of the time. Obviously Nichols sets out to be amusing, and he manages it on his journey through Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Palestine.

I was really surprised at his description of the Pyramids of Giza as the World’s Biggest Flop because I thought that they would have been fairly unspoiled way back in 1936, but it seems that even then the place was ruined by tourist tat just a stone’s throw from the pyramids.

As a serious Christian, and by that I mean one who obviously knew the Bible well, Nichols was keen to visit Palestine – as it was then. There are some places which are probably best kept to the imagination though as almost all of the Biblical places were a disappointment. Jerusalem was basically an open sewer, so the smell was terrible.

This part of the book doesn’t have so much humour in it as he was obviously not impressed by the state of the place, but it’s the most interesting part and the saddest really when you consider that things have gone from bad to much worse for the Palestinians since 1936. At this time Jews were moving in to Palestine and setting up the first Kibbutz, financed by Americans I believe, and he did visit one, but he was appalled by it. The thought of parents not being with their children in a normal family way was horrific to him, but the squalor of Zion Vale, and the fact that they didn’t seem to realise that it was hellish, but were in fact very proud of it, was a mystery to him. Where had all the money which had been poured into it gone?

Anyway, I think this book is out of print and probably quite difficult to get a hold of, which is a shame because it’s an interesting, and at times funny read. At the end of it he has to get home to his garden because he doesn’t want to miss his daffodils blooming. It’s a common experience of keen gardeners, especially at the time of year when new things are popping up every day – if the weather is half decent – why would you ever want to leave your garden?!

14 thoughts on “No Place Like Home by Beverley Nichols

  1. I love Beverley Nichols and have a handful of his books. This is just the kind of travel book I like. So, off to the hunt!

    • Joan,
      I hope you can find it. I’ve just bought his Merry Hall which is the first of a trilogy which seems to be about his family as well as gardening.

      • Merry Hall was reprinted in a lovely hardback edition in the US several years ago, along with Laughter on the Stairs. I have those two and Down the Garden Path, Green Grows the City, Sunlight on the Lawn, and Garden Open Today. I did order a copy of No Place Like Home and it’s supposed to be on its way.

        • Joan,
          My Nichols books are all old hardbacks, my Merry Hall is a book club one from 1953 but is in great condition. Laughter On the Stairs is always quite expensive online but I’ve just bought Village in a Valley which is the last in the Alldays trilogy. I want to get them all eventually. Have you read any of his murder mysteries? I saw the American reprint of Merry Hall, it does look lovely.

          • I haven’t read any of his mysteries. I didn’t even know he’d written any or that he was so prolific. I’ll have to check into his mysteries.

  2. May try to find one of his books. Just came across books by the poet Kathleen Jamie- “Waterlight”, “Sightlines”, “Overhaul” and “Findings”. I’m sure you’re familiar with her poetry. Would you recommend her?

    • Lorraine,
      You might find some in library reserve stocks, it’s worth looking in their online catalogues. I have a bit of a cultural block when it comes to modern poetry and I must admit that I hadn’t even heard of Kathleen Jamie!! Shameful, I know because she is an inhabitant of Fife, and also comes from the west, I don’t know which town but her face looks familiar to me. I had a look at some of her writing and I quite like Moon. Have a look here

      • Thank you for your timely reply and research for me! I was never a fan of poetry-American, world,old or new. But some of my friends in my book group are, even published poets. So when I came across a Scottish poet, I read a few poems and they reminded me of your writing-somewhat poetical in your use of Scottish phrases and writings. I’m learning a great deal from your blog…of course it may be the reason my children could “commit” me. I use a “Scottish” word and they look at me like I’m crazy. Accused me of watching too many BBC programs and I reply,”No, it’s Katrina’s fault!

        • Lorraine,
          My poetry reading has been mainly the obligatory sort at school, so Burns, the war poets and the romantics – Wordsworth and such. Crivens, I don’t know about me being poetic but part of the reason I don’t read poetry is that whenever I have I think – I could do that – and I’m not too impressed by it.
          It’s a great mum/mom tradition – dum(b)fooner the weans, but just carry on blamimg me. If I feel my ears burning I’ll know why!

  3. I’m rather late to the game, but thrilled to find a post about this book. I have a first edition, one of the few things I still have that belonged to my late great aunt. It was given to her by friends for Christmas 1936. I read it for the first time in 1982. My copy has survived several moves and a catastrophic flood that destroyed most of my books. I was enjoying it once again when the thought occurred to me that I should google to see if anyone on earth still cares about Beverley Nichols. I love what you wrote about No Place Like Home, and now I’m looking forward to perusing more of your blog. I know what it means to pine for the west, though in my case it means western Canada. I was born in Ontario but now live in the quiet, beautiful province of Saskatchewan. I have roots in Scotland, as many Canadians do. Cheers!

    • Cathrin,
      I’m so glad that you’ve been enjoying No Place Like Home. I’ve read quite a lot of his books now, he wrote such a lot of them and even wrote mysteries. It’s so nice that your copy belonged to your great aunt. He seems to have been a bit of a fan of cats and I’m more of a dog person so I’ve not read any of his cat books. Yes loads of Scots went to Canada, in fact we almost did when my husband was offered a post-doc there, then we discovered that there was no chance of being able to stay on there after that was finished, so we decided the upheaval wasn’t worth it. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

  4. I’m a fan of his house and garden books too but not sure about No Place Like Home, which I am reading now. We have just arrived in Jerusalem.Some of his opinions are very outdated! Also tried to find out about Miss Virginia Talbot , perched on Pompey’s Pillar, but my resource of google let me down. Mr N. says it ‘is well authenticated’, so we must believe.

    • Gill Leftwich,

      I think his house and garden books are by far the most interesting and entertaining for cosy light reading. It’s so long since I read this one that I don’t even remember him writing about a Miss Virginia Talbot. I also read his book titled Uncle Samson, thoughts on his travels around the US, although I suspect it wouldn’t have gone down well with Americans at the time.
      Thanks for dropping by from Jerusalem and taking the time to comment, I hope you like Jerusalem more than Nichols did.


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