Hearst's San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land by Victoria Kastner ; photography by Victoria Garagliano
Reviewed by Julie D. Taylor
A beautiful companion to her book Hearst Castle: The Biography of a Country House (Abrams, 2000), Kastner's new volume concentrates on the history, influence, beauty, and spirit of the coastal site and the decorative gardens of the "enchanted hill". As Hearst Castle's historian for nearly 30 years, who would know every bloom and marble bust better than she? Kastner tells the story of the land from well before the first descriptions of it by Spanish explorers in 1769, through the Hearst family history in the region, to impressions from current California State Parks Superintendent Nicholas Franco. The research and documentation in the book are impressive, with plans, plant lists, renderings, construction details, cultural artifacts, detailed photo captions, and exhaustive notes and bibliography. Archival photos are seamlessly woven with Garagliano's current work in the same way the landscape and architecture of "La Cuesta Encantada" exist in splendid harmony. Kastner has created a work thatin telling a story centered on a certain family and a particular piece of landis really a cultural biography of the California Dream.