Thursday, July 23, 2015

"the lost garden" by katharine swartz

The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz first caught my attention because of the stunning cover (probably my favorite cover so far in 2015), and it kept my attention because of the beautiful prose and sweetly gripping story line.

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. 

The Lost Garden is not a particularly fast read—it's not one of those novels that moves at breakneck pace or is full of passionate romance. But it is a beautiful novel—one that you read slowly so as to savor the experience as the story unfolds.

Swartz weaves her dual narratives in such a way that as Marin is learning the secrets of the garden and its inhabitants, those events are unfolding in Eleanor's time. The narrative switches between past and present with each chapter, and I never found myself more interested in one timeline than another—both are equally fascinating.

In both timelines, the main characters deal with grief in wildly different ways. Yet their journeys to love and healing do mirror each other in an interesting fashion. Both story lines would be compelling on their own, but the intertwining of the two makes for a much richer and emotional reading experience. This is my first time reading a Katharine Swartz novel, but I'm sure it won't be my last. 5 stars.

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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.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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