The Lost Garden

The Lost GardenThe Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz
Series: Tales from Goswell
Genres: Contemporary, Historical
Published by Lion Fiction on June 27, 2015
Pages: 350

 

About The Lost Garden (from the back cover):
Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident, and at thirty-seven she is made guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister Rebecca. They leave Hampshire for the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast, and settle into Bower House on the edge of the village 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.

I have always been drawn to dual-time narratives. I love the idea of past and present intersecting and exploring ways that the past can affect the present and the future. Although there were times in The Lost Garden that I wished for the story to go deeper, I did enjoy the interweaving of present and past portrayed. It took me a while to warm up to the story, especially the portions set in post-World War I, which is surprising because I usually prefer historical stories over contemporary. For me, there was a bit too much time spent on set-up, but at the same time, there wasn’t enough build-up to ever be fully emotionally invested in Eleanor’s story. Once the story got to the halfway point, at least in the historical storyline, I did start to feel more invested as Eleanor’s character grew and developed.

Although there were times in The Lost Garden that I wished for the story to go deeper, I did enjoy the interweaving of present and past portrayed.

In the present-day, I found Marin’s story much more compelling, if somewhat predictable at times. I really loved the setting that Katharine created in the village of Goswell and the home that Marin chooses for herself and Rebecca, a home called Bower House, which includes a mysterious garden, walled, overgrown and wild. As two estranged half-sisters, Marin and Rebecca really have no way to relate to one another. Their interactions had a very life-like quality to them that really spoke to how individuals process and move on from grief.

I really loved the setting that Katharine created in the village of Goswell and the home that Marin chooses for herself and Rebecca, a home called Bower House, which includes a mysterious garden, walled, overgrown and wild.

The historical segments create a nice parallel to this in that Eleanor and her family are still mourning the loss of brother and son Walter. While Marin and Rebecca hold in their grief in because of self-induced isolation, this family living in Post-WWI Goswell held in their grief due to social constraints of the time. Eleanor defies that convention in the sense that she dares to feel hope again, even in a nation that is mourning and still trying to come to terms with a broken generation of men. While physical wounds were addressed, the mental and emotional state of returned soldiers was often overlooked during that time. I thought Katharine portrayed this very realistically in the relationship between Eleanor’s sister, Katherine, and Katerine’s betrothed, James.  These details as well as the work that Katherine and Eleanor did to help permanently injured soldiers find a new place in society served to give the story a genuine feel.

I would describe the story’s pace as gentle and a bit slower, but still engaging.

I would describe the story’s pace as gentle and a bit slower, but still engaging. There aren’t any highly tense scenes, although there are some very emotional scenes and secrets to be revealed – Katherine makes parallels of both aspects in each storyline, and I think it is intended for those comparisons to be made. I love when story’s connect the past and present on a very human level, that despite a great gap in time, some things are always going to remain the same. I definitely feel like it is one of the most compelling elements of the story.

Now that I’ve read The Lost Garden, I hope to go back and eventually read the first book in the Tales from Goswell. I think fans of Melanie Dobson’s recent books would enjoy The Lost Garden, as would many readers who enjoy dual-time narratives, with equal attention on both the historical and contemporary storylines.

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