Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of 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?
Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.
The Girls In The Garden is one of those books whose pace might be a little slow, yet is no less mesmerizing. The setting of this communal-like neighborhood is beautifully and somewhat chillingly detailed. From the moment I read the synopsis I was fascinated by the idea of this little community in the center of busy London. It harkens back to a more innocent time when parents could let their children outside to play without feeling the need to constantly supervise them. But as it is so often in life, all is not as it seems, and it quickly becomes obvious that something sinister has invaded this little garden of Eden, and disturbed it’s idyllic nature. There are actually two mysteries in play here. The current day one pertaining to young Grace and who assaulted her, and an earlier mystery involving the death of a young girl which was never solved to everyone’s satisfaction. The story is told from the multiple viewpoints of the adults and the children involved. I think Lisa Jewell was brilliant in choosing this format because it made everything so much more personal. Especially the chapters that are related by the kids. After reading the first couple of them, I was reminded a little of The Lord of the Flies. These are kids that despite being surrounded by adults, receive very little supervision. None of them are “bad”. They’re all products of dysfunctional families, and they deal with their issues as best as they can. They’re so richly drawn, that when I finished the book I felt as though I had actually met them. My favorite though was Pip, the younger sister of Grace. First there’s her beautiful letters to her schizophrenic dad who’s been institutionalized after burning down the family home. Her love for him just pours off the pages and there were so many times I wanted to reach in and give her a hug. While only twelve-years-old, she also possesses a wisdom far beyond her years, and she recognizes the growing menace before anyone else, including the adults. This brings me to the one criticism I have. While the children literally kept off the pages, the adults, at least for me, did not. I really didn’t care for any of them, especially Leo who while being attractive to practically every woman he meets, just gave me the creeps. To be perfectly frank, except for Rhea, the kind elderly neighbor who befriends young Pip, they all gave off an air of immaturity and self-involvement, which made it difficult for me to connect to any of them. Despite this, I remained captivated right up until the very end. Lisa Jewell’s writing is so lush and descriptive, that you really can’t help but be pulled into the story. The Girls in the Garden is the first book I’ve read by her, but it’s made me want to go back and read some of her previous novels. If you like character-driven stories and psychological suspense, I highly recommend this.