Wednesday, July 16, 2014

G388 Book Review of The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Name of Book: The Sea Garden

Author: Deborah Lawrenson

ISBN: 978-0-06-227966-8

Publisher: Harper

Type of book: France, Porquerolles, Paris, England, 2013, 1940s, connections, spying, WWII, bravery, perfumes, garden restoration, love, mystery

Year it was published: 2014


Romance, suspense, and World War II mystery are woven together in three artfully linked novellas-rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere-from the critically acclaimed author of The Lantern

On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden's owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian …

Near the end of World War II, Marthe Lincel, a young blind woman newly apprenticed at a perfume factory in Nazi-occupied Provence, finds herself at the center of a Resistance cell. When tragedy strikes, she faces the most difficult choice of her life . . . and discovers a breathtaking courage she never expected.

Iris Nightingale, a junior British intelligence officer in wartime London, falls for a French agent. But after a secret landing in Provence results in terrible Nazi reprisals, he vanishes. When France is liberated, Iris is determined to uncover the truth. Was he the man he claimed to be?

Ingeniously interconnected, this spellbinding triptych weaves three parallel narratives into one unique tale of love, mystery, and murder. The Sea Garden is a vivid and absorbing chronicle of love and loss in the fog of war-and a penetrating and perceptive examination of the impulses and circumstances that shape our lives.


I would guess the stories are more plot driven than character driven. The main characters included Ellie Brooke who was strongly featured in The Sea Garden, plus Marthe Lincel from The Lavender Field and Iris Nightingale from A Shadow Life. Ellie Brooke is a talented garden designer/restoration who is trying to cope with the death of her love. The main character trait that describes her is being a survivor. I have to say that I liked and admired Marthe Lincel the most. She is a blind but courageous young lady who is talented when it comes to mixing scents as well as being resourceful where it counts. Iris Nightingale is also very brave but I would guess she gives her heart a little too easily to a guy. Men played some roles, but those weren't as important as that of the women.


You never know how it will all connect


From all three novellas, its written in third person narrative, the first from Ellie, the second from Marthe and the third from Iris. On their own each could have served as a separate novella and there seemed to be lack of connect between first and second stories. I think when the third story focused more on Iris's story rather than foreshadowing how all three connected until the last thirty or so pages, I guess that's where I grew frustrated. All three stories seemed to be well researched as well as compelling, but I do feel that they should have connected more to one another.

Author Information:
(from TLC)

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Photo credit: Rebecca Eifion-Jones
Photo credit: Rebecca Eifion-Jones

About Deborah Lawrenson

Deborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and worked as a journalist in London. She is married with a daughter and lives in Kent, England. She and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for her novel The Lantern and inspiration for The Sea Garden.  Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook.


Its interesting that at times I tend to read books that coincidentally connect with one another, and this isn't an exception: earlier I read and reviewed Ayelet Waldman's Love and Treasure which was also three novellas in one and it dealt with WWII as well as a mysterious object. This is a bit similar, except I feel that the book was a bit jarring and there is more focus on keeping it short rather than allowing it to run its course. I enjoyed the first two sections of the book, that of The Sea Garden and Lavender Field. The third section, titled A Shadow Life, barely connected the three disparate stories, and its only towards the end that the reader begins to realize how it all connects. Also I am feeling frustrated because I didn't learn a certain important thing about one of the characters. Okay, I will be brief about the three sections: the first section, The Sea Garden, for some odd reason I was reminded of Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe, maybe its nature descriptors that put me in that mind-frame. The second section, Lavender Field is a page turner for me because it deals with a blind character and I found the spying stuff pretty fascinating. The third section, A Shadow Life, although interesting, was also frustrating for me because I don't think I really understood what was going on in the spy world, and I sort of hoped that the connections would come sooner rather than later. By the way, love the cover.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Deborah’s Tour Stops

Thursday, June 26th: Doing Dewey
Monday, June 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, July 7th: Book Dilettante
Thursday, July 10th: The Written World
Friday, July 11th: Olduvai’s Reads
Monday, July 14th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, July 15th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, July 16th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, July 17th: Stitch Read Cook
Friday, July 18th: Diary of an Eccentric
Monday, July 21st: BookNAround
Tuesday, July 22nd: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, July 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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