I really liked this novel, combining a contemporary story with one that took place in the same location nearly one hundred years before.
In the contemporary story, Marin is trying for a new start after her father and his second wife were killed in an automobile accident, leaving her the guardian of her fifteen year old half sister. They've found an old cottage in the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast. The property contains a walled garden that captures the interest of Marin and her sister. They enlist a local gardener and begin to uncover its secrets.
The historical story takes place at the end of WW I. Nineteen year old Eleanor is grieving the loss of her brother, killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Her father, the local vicar, notices how unhappy she is. He decides to hire someone to make a garden for her and perhaps draw her out of her grief. Jack has been doing odd jobs in the village and when Eleanor's father hires him, an unsuitable friendship forms between him and Eleanor.
I really liked how Swartz weaves the two narratives together, alternating between them as somewhat parallel stories unfold. Both are romance stories, in a sense. Yet they are both stories of revelation, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. The characters have been crafted well and come alive through Swartz's storytelling.
The historical narrative reveals how terrible WW I was. So many men did not come back and those who did were severely damaged by the horror they saw. It would take a strong woman to help such a traumatized man find his way again at living a meaningful life. They had to fight for their happiness.
I liked how Swartz used the garden and a small building in it to tie the two stories together. It seemed to symbolize how women from both eras had to deal with tragedy and the possibility of a new life. I also like how the two stories involved sister relationships. Both relationships had to face some difficult obstacles. I think I liked the ending best of all. Much of the book is about struggle and discouraging circumstances. The end was sweet with promise of hope for the future.
Katherine Swartz lives in the Lake District with her husband, an Anglican minister, and their five children. She also writes fiction and contemporary romance under the name Kate Hewitt. You can find out more at www.katherineswartz.com.
Kregel Publications, 352 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.