Book Tour Review: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrence

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Title: The Sea Garden
Author: Deborah Lawrence
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: June 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

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.

This was my first novel by popular author Deborah Lawrence and it was a mixed bag for me as a reader. There was a lot I enjoyed about the writing and the novel itself -- the atmosphere, the lush descriptions, but I wanted more plot and more characterization from each of the three stories being told. The Sea Garden, despite being the title, is only the first of three short(ish) stories contained in the book, though all are linked in some way. That said, I still couldn't stop reading this once I started and those 3 stars are fully deserved.

Of the three stories herein, the eponymous The Sea Garden was the longest and most involving read for me. I liked the settings for the other two novels more (WWII is hard to beat for sheer emotion and drama) but they lacked the length to really entrench me in the lives of the characters and the stories being told. The atmosphere for The Sea Garden is another thing to recommend it -- the atmosphere is enveloping, confusing, and more than a little creepy. I was never quite sure where the story would go, which made for several unexpected twists and turns.

I say there are three stories in the novel, and there technically are -- but they're each comprised of small pieces of a puzzle that add up to make a complete picture. The stories set before Ellie's modern-day novella are shorter but no less creative or evocative for it. The ties that bind all three into a larger microcosm work well and make a cohesive, intertwining picture, I just wish the novel had been able to spend more time with characters Marthe and Iris; that they had been able to operate on the page for as much time as their modern compatriot.

I wanted to love this going in with what I thought it would be, but in the end I liked it a great deal for what it was. I enjoyed the short read but I can't help but feel the plots were quite lacking or insubstantial, hampered as they were by the page-length, there's a tad too much detail about landscape design in Ellie's story, and there are far too few three-dimensional characters for me to rate it higher than three stars. The parallel narratives was unusual and new, but wasn't my favorite narrative device. I would certainly read a full-length novel from this author, given her evident ability to write effective scenes and capture atmosphere so very well.

1 comment:

  1. I just saw this one earlier today when I was sent a link for a contest. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Thanks for the review.


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