My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve been a Lisa Jewell fan for a few years and read the last several books she’s written. I’m now going backward to catch up on a few that look interesting. Since I love stories about gardens, and The Girls in the Garden from 2015 had a cool-sounding vibe, I decided to make it my next read. While the story had tons of merit and intrigue, it fell a bit short for me. I enjoyed it, ending somewhere around 3.5 stars. I’ll round up because I do enjoy the writing style and character creation.
In a lovely section of London, there is a large cul-de-sac of sorts where a dozen or so homes surround a beautiful park and garden. Most families stay forever. Some leave because it’s too much like living in a commune. Occasionally, some neither stay nor leave – they die. Clare and her daughters, Pip and Grace, move into the community after their husband and father has a breakdown. The girls are 12/13 and somewhat precocious for their ages. Given the issue with their father, their sense of comfort and trust has been broken. They’re vulnerable, and in particular, Grace, the older girl, finds herself all too willing to grow up too quickly.
The neighbors are interesting. A mixed-race family with 3 daughters. An older woman who knows some secrets. A mysterious boy and his older brother who has a few of his own issues to deal with. And the daughter of a woman whose sister might’ve been murdered there years ago. Everyone is interesting. Everyone is scary. I wasn’t sure which ones to like or dislike, and as the pages and time progressed, it became more clear. Even so, no one was without fault. Even Clare, who let her children run a little too free.
The book introduces lots of side stories. Each character has a subplot to follow. Unfortunately, several just whimper out… we know enough to assume what happened in the past, and again in the current time, but it’s not detailed enough. I like books with vague endings, but this one was much more vague than normal. It’s almost like it was missing ~50 pages to tie some things together. For instance, the older women never confronts anyone or reveals the secrets. The father who moved to Africa gets ill, recovers, and leaves. But he knew things, and we never explored it. The young daughters were never punished for any behaviors, yet we don’t know who did what during the incident. That feels kinda important to me, even if we’re speculating.
That said… the prose was lyrical as usual. The imagery was wonderful. I wish I could live there, but without my neighbors running in and out all the time. I also think the girls should’ve been 14/15 instead of 12/13, especially given the sexual activity they engaged in. I know what I did when I was 12/13, and while I can understand the point in this story, it would’ve been stronger if the girls were a bit older — still underage, but enough that I’d possibly get why the mothers were less focused on monitoring them. Or maybe that’s the point; they thought they were too young for things to happen.
I’d recommend the book if you like Jewell’s work. If this will be your first Jewell novel, don’t do it. Start with a more current one to cement the beauty of her style. This one is okay, but it won’t show you the true strength in her work. She’s grown tons in the last few novels, and I look forward to reading more.
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For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.