I received this book for free from the TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
Published by Atria Books on June 7, 2016
Genres: Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Depression & Mental Illness, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Girls & Women, Mystery, New Experience, Physical & Emotional Abuse
Source: TLC Book Tours
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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?
Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.
The Girls in the Garden starts off with a twelve-year-old girl discovering her sister’s unconscious body, half naked and bloodied from an attack during a neighborhood party. Immediately you’re left wondering who would hurt this thirteen-year-old girl, let alone leave there for anyone to discover her body. Author Lisa Jewell backs things up and goes back to six months before, when little sister Pip, older sister Grace, and their mother Clare move into a flat that is one of a set of apartments that are situated around a three acre community park. They find the community to be tight knit there, but also a bit free with letting their children roam wild around the park. Since Clare, Pip, and Grace just lost their home due to a tragic event, they’re gun shy when it comes to making friends and making a new home there.
Told from multiple points of view, you get to know Pip, Clare, as well as Adele, mother of three home schooled girls who Pip and Clare befriend. then become a common fixture in their household. While Clare is a stay at home mother, she’s barely holding it together by herself in the recent absence of her husband. Adele is quite the opposite, able to care for a husband and three girls while homeschooling them, along with a stream of neighborhood kids that are in and out. And then Adele’s rather crude and bossy father-in-law comes for a visit to get some surgery, and the entire neighborhood is abuzz with talk of past sins and current misdeeds.
What I really loved about The Girls in the Garden is the realistic portrayal of the children and the parents. So many of the adults were barely holding on while putting up a brave face, and the children weren’t as innocent as their parents wanted to believe. The sprawling park with the surrounding apartments and houses gave a feeling of freedom to the children, but when reading this book, it also gave off a claustrophobic, walled-in feeling that everyone there knew your business–whether you wanted them to or not. The bigger mystery of who had attacked Grace was answered about 60% into the book, and then the rest of the book (the AFTER) focused on the intricate relationships between everyone involved. Quite a few people looked guilty, but I won’t give it away. This doesn’t have such a black and white ending.
I give The Girls in the Garden a four out of five. With a picturesque and descriptive London setting, the main mystery of the attack on Grace was a slow build as you made your way through the past six months up until the attack, along with side mysteries of a previous murder and what happened to Clare’s husband. This book isn’t very heart racing, it’s a more contemplative, emotional narrative where you really get to know the families and people that live around the park–getting to see what makes them tick. I was a little let down by the ending, but it was a very fitting ending with the way one of the characters is very protective and smart, and I wasn’t dissatisfied by that. I would definitely read another Lisa Jewell novel again.
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About Lisa Jewell
Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.
She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.
She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.
She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.
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