Review: The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

My Thoughts

Full of intrigue, suspense and anticipation
with an intricate plot and rich characters to bring the story to life.

4 four stars

Synopsis

Jun-07Imagine 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. Fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes will be captivated by The Girls in the Garden, the next unforgettable novel by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell.

My Review

Lisa Jewell delivers a compelling family drama and psychological thriller which draws you into a garden community were sinister secrets hide, into the lives of those whose history thrums amongst these grounds, inside alcoves, atop hills and behind closed curtains. Jewell’s tightly written prose exposes the darker complexities of teen life, love and friendships as well as the secrets, worries and desires of the parents who rear them. The mood is rife with unease, the constant feeling that evil lurks in plain sight.  She further explores the relationships between women, between girls, between sisters as the story unravels in multiple point of views. I loved the juxtaposition of the lush, idyllic garden neighborhood with the notion that wickedness and perversion hide within its depths. Nothing is as it seems and history has a horrible way of repeating itself.

… suddenly it’s like Narnia, there’s all these tall trees and pathways and a lawn that takes you up to all these big white houses and windows that are as tall as two men and you can see the chandeliers and the big splashy paintings on the walls. At night when you look up the hill and the houses have all their lights on it’s so pretty. And in the park itself there are all these pathways and little tucked-away places. A secret garden which is hidden inside an old wall covered with ivy, like the one in the book.

When Clare and her young teen daughters—Pip and Grace—move into a garden community in London, they’re hoping for a safer, better life on the heels of a tragedy that has left them on their own. But when the story opens, Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace bloody and unconscious in a dark corner of the rose garden while their mother sleeps after having too much wine at a neighbor’s home.

The story pulls us back in time as it introduces us to the complex characters who inhabit the community, many who have grown up there themselves. The children are tightly banded together as a clique, and Pip and Grace are the awkward outsiders. Slowly however, Grace gets pulled into the group, while Pip is left on the fringe. Her point-of-view imparts through letters to her absentee father, as she outlines her concerns about Grace, and the odd relationships between the group.

We also meet Adele, wife and mother of three, whose perspective provides an insider counterpoint to Pip’s. Both their narratives expose their inquisitiveness, perceptiveness and speculations, before and after what happened to Grace.

Was it possible, she thought, that something sinister was going on? That the “playing” that had evolved over the years into “hanging out” had now begun to evolve into something darker?

The pace of the book is gradual, as Jewell explores the complexities of her rich characters, all leading up to what really happened to Grace that night (whose attack mimics the one of a girl who died in the garden years back). This is a great book for readers who love intricate family dramas, but not for readers who enjoy fast-paced reads with quick payoffs and huge climaxes. It’s fascinating and sinister and disturbing all at once and I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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