A walled garden links two stories almost one hundred years apart. The women in both stories have suffered losses and are rebuilding their lives. The two men who assist in creating and re-creating the garden are also wounded by events in their pasts and are keeping secrets. As the stories unfold and the garden blossoms, so does each relationship.
While half of the storyline is modern-era, I enjoyed the WWI era so much that I wanted to classify this book as historical fiction. I think this is a talented author who was able to balance two different time lines quite well!
I was impressed with how well Swart juggled two different time lines. The parallels between the two narratives and the mounting discoveries which impacted the eras were plotted out very well. However, I was drawn more into the post-WWI era versus the modern plotline. I have not read much of post-WWI, so I found it extremely fascinating and emotionally charged. There are so many dates of importance marked out for WWII, but there is very little of WWI victories that the US celebrates. I found I could not wait to get back to the 1919 story and learn more about the soldiers and families struggling to settle into their old lives again after the horrors of war. The setting was very strong, and the characters were intriguing and multilayered.
I feel the modern characters were less interesting than the 1919 parallel characters. I enjoyed the discovery of the garden and uncovering the secrets behind the garden, especially trying to discover the story behind an old photo taken in the garden. However, I felt the modern storyline’s progression was extremely slow. I was surprised Marin did not do internet research on how to help her half-sister or try to reach out in other ways and to other people. Her attempts at comforting and connecting to her half-sister Rebecca were clumsy, and they never improved as the story went on. There was a lot of giving up by each character, and Marin’s lack of effort to help Rebecca was very frustrating. In the 1919 timeline, there was one character who was always trying to reach out in a positive way, uplifting some of the heaviness weighing down the characters. The modern timeline did not have that type of character. Plus I was not as drawn into the setting as I had hoped. While the landscape sounded dreamy at first, it was never very immersing as the story went on.
The middle of the book slowed down a lot, and I found myself easily distracted from it. I actually read two books in that time before picking this book up again. The general setting is England (UK), and many terms and names of items and activities were foreign to me (as an American reader) as well as not easy to find online to reference; however, the terms and names I could not identify did not impact the storylines as a whole. It was just mildly distracting.
I think the story has a lot of emotion and character development. I very, very much appreciated the amount of research put into talking and thinking as a woman in 1919 and absolutely delighted in the story of the vicar's daughters. The drawback of this story was that the modern era had less interesting and impactful moments for the characters. Thus, the story felt to drag its feet during the middle portion. However, the parallel stories end well, and I think the author has a talent for creating strong character voices that narrate the unfolding events.
Just released December 2016: "The Forgotten" volume 2 "Heir of the Heretic"
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse