The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Published by Atria Books (June 7, 2016)
320 pages
Kindle Edition
Advance reader's copy provided by publisher
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After reading a short excerpt of this novel several months ago and a recommendation by author Jojo Moyes, whose work I enjoy, I decided to give this new-to-me author a try and I was unexpectedly delighted. While I do not, generally speaking, read a lot of mystery/suspense novels (I read the bulk of them during the winter months), there was something about this story that really caught my attention.

Pip followed her big sister back across the lawn and down the graveled path that led to their back gate, and as she did she heard the park whisper in their wake. It talked to itself about the things it knew, the secrets it held close within its pathways and crannies, its bowers and corners. It whispered about the people who lived behind the closed doors and the insular group of children on the bench, and of the days yet to come when the warmth of summer would bring it all back to life.

The novel is set in London and involves several adults/families who live in close proximity, surrounded by a park that includes hundreds of acres of lush greenery and flower gardens; it sounds idyllic. I imagined it as if several family homes, a few town home units and other dwellings sat just along the edge of Central Park...and then those who inhabited the area had the park virtually to themselves. 

This arrangement allows these individuals, along with their families and children, to engage with one another on a regular basis. They get to know one another and there are few secrets, kind of like living in a really small town: it's wonderful, but not really.

She wants to know and she doesn’t and she can’t because she is trapped here in this park. Trapped within all these staring eyes of windows. Trapped in this place that has not let her grow, has not given her the space to be something more than her parents’ daughter, her sisters’ sister. And she is scared.

You don't need me to tell you what the book is about, you can read the description for that, but I will say that what interested me even more than the mystery within was the manner with which the author has crafted these characters: they are interesting without being trite or predictable; they are beautifully flawed; they are human, and full of complicated emotions; and they remind me that we are often guilty of hiding behind a facade that we choose to present to one another on a daily basis. 

Because the children of the novel, some of whom are teenagers, play a prominent role in the story, I believe that this novel would appeal to not only an adult fiction audience, but also to fans of YA fiction; similar to novels I've enjoyed like The Unraveling of Mercy Louis and My Sunshine Away, the children seem to have this otherworldly quality, a maturity beyond their years, and they are holding secrets from one another just as tightly as their parents are. 

‘You know, you think you’re keeping your girls all pure and unsullied in this gilded cage of yours. But what you don’t seem to realize is that you can protect children from the world, but you can’t protect children from themselves.’

There is so much more to this novel than the resolution of a mystery; however, I did find myself reading this one all the time and eager to learn how the ends would tie up. I loved the way in which the author provides readers with enough information to feel satisfied, yet not so much that we're not left with a few questions to ponder. I will definitely recommend this as a great getaway/summer/vacation read! 

 

 

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