The Girls in the Garden is another example of a review request heavily influenced by the beautiful cover. I am a big time sucker for any type of nature (trees, flowers, gardens, jungles, forests, etc.) on a book cover. I just can’t help myself. Would you just look at it?After I quit drooling over the cover, I took a glance at the book description and saw the buzz words “dark secrets,” “devastating mystery,” and “communal garden.” I was sold!
Author: Lisa Jewell
Version: eBook & Audiobook (9h 21min listening length)
Narrator: Colleen Prendergast
Publisher: Atria Books
Dark secrets, a devastating mystery and the games people play: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of The House We Grew Up In and The Third Wife.
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 neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.
You think your children are safe.
But are they really?
Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
Utterly believable characters, a gripping story and a dark secret buried at its core: this is Lisa Jewell at her heart-stopping best.
If you have followed me for a while, you know that thriller novels are not my go-to books, actually I often struggle with them for various reasons (predictability, unbelievable, pacing, etc) I keep throwing them into the mix in the hopes that I will come across a book (or author) that changes my mind. I am happy to report that I think Lisa Jewell has shown me that there are thriller/suspense books out there that I do enjoy.
The Girls in the Garden opens to a shocking scene: a 13-year-old girl is found unconscious with her clothing askew in a secluded spot in a community park. What has happened to her? Who would do this? In The Girls in the Garden we learn about “the incident” first, then go back in time leading up to the incident, gathering bits and pieces along the way until the entire picture becomes clear. I actually really enjoy this method because instead of trying to figure out the “what,” we know the details and are more focused on the “who” & the “why.”
Told through alternating perspectives of Pip, Adele, & Clare, we slowly go through the events leading up to the assault against 13-year-old Grace. I think Jewell made a good move in selecting which characters POVs to include: Adele, the mother of the sisters that Grace has befriended; Clare, Grace’s mom; and Pip, Grace’s little sister. Adele is the mother that seems to have it all together. She has a beautiful home, the perfect husband, homeschools her daughters, entertains, & gives her daughters a bit more freedom… but is everything as perfect as it seems? Clare is trying to pick up the pieces after a tragedy that causes an estrangement from her husband & moves her daughters into a brand new community. Clare is settling into her new role as a single parent, while watching her oldest daughter mature into a teenager in the blink of an eye. Clare is struggling with loneliness & questions all of her parenting decisions. Is Grace’s attack her fault? Could she have prevented it? Pip is struggling with missing her Dad & adjusting to her new life in her new surroundings. Pip’s perspective was an excellent addition because despite the fact that she is an outsider of the clique of teens who roam the gardens, her perspective shows us some of the antics that the teens get into. Are they all really as innocent as they seem? Each perspective gives us access to different key players and events leading up to the attack, allowing the pieces of this puzzle to slowly fall into place. I thought the characters were all very well done. They were flawed and all made very questionable decisions at times, but this gave them a more authentic feel.
It is no secret that I love novels set in “small town America,” so it is no surprise that I enjoyed the setting in this book: the residential community that shares a common area (the garden/park). There is just something about people living close together that breeds drama & secrets. This also gave another layer to the mystery: Was the culprit someone living within the community? Was this the work of someone from the outside? How could this happen in our safe community?
While the main storyline is about figuring out the “who” and the “why” of the attack on Grace, there are a few subplots as well. Jewell introduces all kinds of characters & events to throw the reader off the trail. You will find yourself forming theories surrounding the attack, but which one will it end up being? That is, if you guess the culprit or motivation at all… I thought Jewell did a great job of holding my attention the entire time, BUT I wouldn’t classify this as an action-packed thriller either. This was more of a slower paced mystery that focuses more on the drama of communal living, so if you are expecting a more faster paced “edge of your seat” read, this is not going to be it. This is very much more of a slow burn mystery.
The conclusion wasn’t exactly a huge shocker, BUT it was definitely more involved and complicated then I was anticipating. Typically I don’t like when the author leaves things unresolved, but Jewell does leave a few things up in the air in The Girls in the Garden, however I think it worked well here. It gave just the right amount of open-endedness to the story without making the story feel unresolved or incomplete. Overall, the ending was satisfying and just seemed to fit the novel perfectly.
I think the best part of The Girls in the Garden was the fact that it is so believable, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had heard this story on the news in real life. This factor is what I appreciate the most in thriller/suspense books, it also makes them more terrifying than the farfetched books…
The Girls in the Garden was my first experience reading a Lisa Jewell book, but was definitely not going to be my last. Actually, after reading this book, I had the opportunity to attend her U.S. book tour for her most recent release, I Found You. You can read more about my experience here → Book Event: Lisa Jewell’s “I Found You” Book Tour. I am excited to read Lisa’s other books after having positive experiences with The Girls in the Garden, and also I found you.
Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.
She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.
She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.
She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.