The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Clare moves her daughters, both of whom are teetering on the brink of becoming teenagers, to a flat in a communal garden in London. They've all been through a terrible ordeal and this quiet community, where neighbors look out for each other, and the children play together, seems the perfect place. But on the evening of her eldest daughter's Grace's 13th birthday, something terrible happens. Her younger sister, Pip, finds Grace unconscious in the garden. Grace is covered in blood, with her clothes askew. Pip has heard rumors of a young girl who died here years before. Suddenly the garden no longer seems like a safe place. What happened to Grace? Will it ever be safe for Clare and her girls again?
Apparently this was Jewell's first foray into true suspense and overall, I thought she did fairly well. The majority of the book was tense and exciting, in that regard, and there is enough swirl around each of the characters that you truly don't know what happened to Grace, or who could be responsible for the incident. In addition to Clare and her daughters, we meet Leo and Adele and their three home-schooled daughters; Dylan, a teenager who lives near the garden; and Dylan's friend, Tyler, a a girl similar in age to Grace. These characters, along with several others, combine to tell the story-- we hear from Clare and her girls, plus Leo and Adele. It adds to the suspense of the novel, which opens with Grace's accident and then backtracks from there. It's an effective technique which had me madly flipping pages, trying to figure out what happened.
One of my nits with this book was my inability to relate with the overall nature of the characters; perhaps never having experienced such communal garden living, it was hard to imagine a world where the children roamed so freely, with little regard for their parents. Some of the kids were obviously neglected, but not Clare or Adele's broods. Their attitudes toward their parents seemed off kilter, even for this day and age and turned me off a bit. My favorite of the group was Pip-- probably because she was less hateful and more introspective. Even then, I would have been okay with all of this, but after I sped through the book--really into the plot and loving the whole thing--the ending was just a disappointment. There was so much buildup and then it all just petered out at the end. I stayed up late to finish the book and then felt incredibly let down. Still a good 3-star read, but demoted from a higher rating due to the ending.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley (thank you!); it's available for publication in the U.S. on 6/7/2016.
You can read my review of one of Jewell's earlier novels, "The Third Wife," here.
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