Monday, July 20, 2015

The Lost Garden (Tales from Goswell) By Katharine Swartz

ISBN: 978-1-78264-091-2
$14.99 Paperback Lion Fiction
About the book: Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident leaving her the guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister, Rebecca. They choose the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbering coast and settle into Bower House, the former vicarage, on the edge of the church property. When a door to a walled garden captures Rebecca’s interest, Marin becomes determined to open it and discover what is hidden beneath the bramble inside. She enlists the help of local gardener Joss Fowler, and together the three of them begin to uncover the garden’s secrets.

In 1919, nineteen-year-old Eleanor Sanderson, daughter of Goswell’s vicar, is grieving the loss of her beloved brother Walter, who was killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Eleanor retreats into herself and her father starts to notice how unhappy she is. As spring arrives, he decides to hire someone to make a garden for Eleanor, and draw her out of—or at least distract her from—her grief and sorrow. Jack Taylor is in his early twenties, a Yorkshire man who has been doing odd jobs in the village, and when Eleanor’s father hires him to work on the vicarage gardens, a surprising—and unsuitable—friendship unfolds.

Deftly weaving the dual narratives, Katharine Swartz explores themes of loyalty and love through her memorable characters and strong sense of place.

My thoughts: As I began the book, it struck me as being intensely depressing. I sensed desperation, death, despair. I thought to myself that this was not particularly the type of book I would typically choose, and not what I expected The Lost Garden story to hold for the reader based on the description of the book. However, I persisted.

The setting is on a plot of land that shared a history with a monastery prior to the Reformation. The church, the vicar's residence, and a cottage for another feature the enclosed garden gone to ruin are the dwellings for the families of both timelines. While the author doesn't delve back into pre-reformation days for this story, it is two stories from different decades running throughout. This seems to be a favorite technique of writers which some readers find daunting as the story switches back and forth. It adds interest, but is not a favorite style of mine.

As I continued to read on, I found myself feeling the heart of the characters and of the village in which they lived. The cutting of weeds and brambles unearthed more than a former garden. This is a warm story but has depth of meaning and characters as everyday as your neighbor might be.

The setting is England (UK) and many terms and names of items and activities may be somewhat strange to the American audience. This does not detract at all from the reading.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely mine. I received no compensation for this review.

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