Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: The Girls in the Garden

Summary: Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible? -- Atria

I missed posting on Monday of this week -- the day I almost always devote to reviewing a mystery or thriller. I guess you could say that this review of THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN by Lisa Jewell is kind of/sort of my replacement for that post; however, I'm not sure that I'd primarily classify this book as a mystery. It's more of a women's lit kind of story, but there is definitely an element of a whodunnit. There are also lots of secrets and questions about trust. So basically, it's a tantalizing read from one of my long-time favorite authors.

THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN tells the story of Clare who has moved to a new home in urban London after her husband is committed after a psychotic breakdown. Clare has two daughters, Pip and Grace, and is happy that she has found a home that backs to a communal garden area. Her daughters have become fast friends with the neighbors; however, things might not be as safe as she first thought.

The novel begins when Pip discovers her teen sister Grace lying unconscious in the peaceful garden behind their home. Grace is left bloodied and it's obvious to Pip that something horrible happened to her sister. The novel then goes back in time as it explains the past and introduces the various characters in the story. The story is told through pre-teen Pip's eyes as well as Adele's, a woman and mom who lives in the neighborhood. There is also insight from Pip's mom Clare.

There are no obvious suspects for the crime against Grace, but no one in this small community appear to be above suspicion. What happened to Grace brings to light a similar crime that took place in the neighborhood many years ago... which definitely places suspicion on those individuals who lived there at that time. As the novel unfolds and tension builds, more and more questions seem to come to light about what could have happened to Grace.

THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN was definitely an intriguing read! I have been a huge fan of Ms. Jewell's (for many years!), and it was terrific to see her write this type of novel. I thought she did a great job with the pacing of this novel -- there were little cliffhangers throughout, and an even better job with building suspense. In addition, she created some memorable and complex characters.

One thing I really appreciated was how she wrote about the garden that exists between the characters houses. It almost was a character in its own right in how she described its appearance. She did a very good job in contrasting the natural beauty of the garden with the danger and threats that were obviously in existence.

Another aspect of this story that I really appreciated was the character development. The story was told through the eyes of three people, and I thought Ms. Jewell gave each one of them an authentic voice. I especially enjoyed Pip's letters to her dad which updated him on her family's lives. They were  extremely touching as Pip tried to figure out her family's new life without their father. She shared with him her concern for her sister as she made new friends and distanced herself from Pip and her mother.

Finally, as much as I enjoyed the intrigue of THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN, I think I most enjoyed what the topics that this novel explored. The book delved into trust, secrets, new beginnings, peer pressure, family dynamics, growing up, and more; and it really did make me think. As a result, you won't be surprised when I tell you that this novel would make a great book club pick. There is a reading guide available with fourteen really good questions along with some ideas for ways to enhance your book club experience.

Lisa Jewell does not disappoint... ever. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Kathy (Bermudaonion) for sharing this novel with me.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I love Jewell's work, too. This sounds like another winner!