Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Present and past residents of a countryside English vicarage search for love 

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 Cumbrian 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:
This is what happens to everything.”  (p. 155)

Rebecca was speaking of the abandoned, overgrown garden at the back of their property when she spoke to her half-sister Marin.  However, these few words are a bit prophetic in both of the stories Katherine Swartz weaves together in her novel, The Lost Garden.  This novel cleverly weaves the lives of two families that span nearly a century of tragedy, heartache and, albeit grudging – renewal.  The lives of the Sanderson family in the wake of the First World War, and the lives of Marin Ellis and her half-sister Rebecca in the wake of their own family tragedy begin to mirror one another more and more as the novel progresses.  This becomes the universal story of grieving losses and, in the end, choosing how to move forward even though you would rather not.  The longing for things to be different from what they are is a circumstance we all face time and time again over the course of a lifetime.  The journey to discover the choices that these characters make will both surprise and satisfy you.

I was totally able to identify with the propensity to keep secrets….to protect the ones you love from further hurt…all the while sorting through your own pain.  Life has always been filled with complex choices, and we all have to deal with the repercussions of each choice we make.  To own that is the journey each of Swartz’ characters is put upon through some means or another.  It is fascinating to follow their development and to reach the conclusion of their individual choices.

This is a more complex book than I first suspected, but I think it is largely due to the places it intersects my own journey.   I think this novel reflects what each individual brings to the story.  So prepare for the unexpected!  You may cry.  You may laugh.  You may experience many things you didn’t expect.  Enjoy the journey!

About the Author:
After spending three years as a diehard New Yorker, Katharine Swartz now lives in the Lake District with her husband, an Anglican minister, their five children, and a Golden Retriever. She enjoys such novel things as long country walks and chatting with people in the street, and her children love the freedom of village life--although she often has to ring four or five people to figure out where they've gone off to! 

In addition to writing women's fiction, she writes contemporary romance for Mills & Boon Modern under the name Kate Hewitt. Whatever the genre, she enjoys delivering a compelling and intensely emotional story.

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