book review: The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

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Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much – appreciated as always!

This was insanely British. In a lovely way.

Character-driven, sensual and complex, The Girls in the Garden (sometimes shortened to just The Girls) by Lisa Jewell is a really gorgeous, smart and lyrical sketch of families, friendships, youth and old age – almost suffocating in its realness and painful intimacy.

After their house is burnt to the ground, Clare and her daughters – Grace and Pip – move to a new flat, with a huge jewel of a community garden. There in the glow of emerald green, the residents of the flats congregate. To drink, to smoke, to talk, to fuck, to flirt, to steal moments. It’s incestuous and irresistible.

This isn’t one of those thrillers that has you turning every page, anxious to find out who the eff is the killer. Instead, it’s a moving study of fractured personalities, petty jealousies, aching grief, mental illness and people who think they know their community – until they don’t. That’s where Jewell excels – at spotlighting how we think we get those that exist around us, but how we couldn’t be more wrong. Every single person is struggling with something we know nothing about. Perhaps that person is even a loved one. A lover. A daughter. A friend.

The real star in this book is Pip, so movingly grieving the loss of her father – and Adele and her charmingly boho family. The real star too, is the assured simplicity of the writing – the story is never over wrought or over done. Instead, it’s beautifully told and the end is refreshingly without drama. Jewell never stoops to trying for a Gillian Flynn Gone Girl reveal.

She just unveils what was always there, simmering beneath our noses – almost undetectable, but there, there… ready to be awoken.

 

 

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