Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Sea Garden -- Book Review

From the cover :

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.
The Sea Garden
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. . . .
The Lavender Field
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.
A Shadow Life
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.

My thoughts :

After finishing the first novella in The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson, I wasn't initially sure what I thought. I'd had a hard time getting into the story line and then just when I was finally interested in Ellie's trouble, the novella ended rather abruptly. 

While I still wasn't clear on the connection between the two stories, I did not have the same trouble with the second novella. I was enraptured by the scents and landscapes in The Lavender Field and the story of Marthe Lincel, the blind woman participating in the French Resistance was fascinating. The history, danger and beauty comes alive in Lawrenson's writing. 

Connections between the stories started to become apparent in the third and final novella A Shadow Life. I found the story of Iris Nightingale and her tales of intrigue and conspiracy as she worked with the British Intelligence during WWII most compelling.

Having three connected novellas tell the story was an interesting contrivance. However, it was not that different from many novels today that have multiple story lines and perspectives in alternating chapters. In Lawrenson's novel, the reader could focus on one tale at a time and wasn't toggling back and forth between the two. This method definitely has its merits. 

Overall, Lawrenson created a stunningly beautiful and atmospheric novel. I could nearly smell the lavender blooming in Provence. I felt the ghostly aspect of the novel was weak but Lawrenson excels with historical fiction and bringing the past to life.

The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson is a luscious historical fiction novel perfect for those sudden rainy afternoons this summer. It is published by Harper and released on June 24, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Sea Garden in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.** 

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