Book Review: The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the GardenThe Girls in the Garden
Lisa Jewell
Atria Books, June 2016
ISBN 978-1-4767-9221-7

From the publisher—

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?

What an interesting book this is! I was initially drawn to it by the idea of a community garden and how it could be seen almost as a locked room situation when one of the children is attacked. What really came about, though, is less the kind of mystery I might have expected and more a study of the people living in the community.

The tale is told from three points of view—Pip, sister of Grace; Adele, who’s lived in the community for 20 years; and Clare, mother of Pip and Grace. There are quite a few other characters but it’s these three whose stories are most important. Each has a distinctive presence and drawings done by Pip in letters to her absent father add a sort of charm while they also convey a good deal of pathos. That pathos is real once the reader understands the reason for his absence but Pip’s is not the only emotional upheaval. Certainly Clare has much to deal with and Adele adds a sense of normality and warmth to her observations of others who share the garden while she’s also a textbook enabler.

When I first started reading, I was put off by the use of third person present tense which for me is like nails on a chalkboard. Unfortunately, the depth and appeal of a storyline can’t overcome the way I’m constantly aware of the writing style, and I do mean constantly but, happily, the author switched to third person past tense after the first few pages. The tale takes a somewhat leisurely pace but is filled with the essence of this small community. The resolution of who attacked Grace is sort of anti-climactic but that’s okay because this is really a look at how people affect each other and cope with the vagaries of life.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.



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About the Author

Lisa JewellLisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels, including The House We Grew Up In and The Third Wife.

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