Monday, April 25, 2011

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden / Susanna Kearsley
London: Allison & Busby, c2011.
476 p.

If you are already a fan of Susanna Kearsley you are going to love this one. If you aren't yet, read this and you will be! I've read all of her novels and this one is one of my new favourites. Her style is comparable to Mary Stewart, or even Barbara Michaels, and she is so very good at the gothic/romance/time travel kind of book.

In The Rose Garden, Eva Ward is newly alone; her older sister has just died of cancer and she is taking her ashes to be scattered in Cornwall, at a place they spent all their summer holidays as children and where they were happy. So Eva gives up her life in L.A. and returns to stay with her friends at Trelowarth House in Cornwall. There she renews her relationships with Mark, now owner of the house and master gardener, Susan his sister who is trying to start a tearoom to bring in tourists, their stepmother Claire, a warm and lovely woman, and their friend Oliver, from the village. The pain she struggles with, trying to accept her sister's loss, is soothed by the presence of these people who had also known her.

But then Eva experiences hallucinations, of extra paths in the wood and of strange men in strange dress walking through her doorway. And they keep getting more realistic. She believes she is going crazy. After much research and consideration of the facts she realizes that she is in fact travelling through time to an earlier era when others lived in Trelowarth. The travel seems to be tied to the house itself, and one of the characters explains that it is on a ley line, one of the paths of earth energy.

Eva must then decide which life she is more attached to; her present life as an orphaned, bereft woman working in web design, or the life she is beginning to build in 1715 with the handsome smuggler Daniel Butler and his household. And even if she wants to stay in 1715, she seems to have no control over when and how she shifts between times. How will this ever work out?

I admit, my idea of a solution didn't pan out. But the twist at the end was fantastic. No, more than that, it was FANTASTIC. I am not often surprised by the twists and turns of storylines, having the usual ability to come up with possibilities before I get to them. This one caught me by surprise, and yet once I had read it, I realized I'd missed all the clues dropped earlier. It made perfect sense (something I like in a story -- I really don't enjoy plots that make me wonder why on earth someone doesn't do the something that is obvious). The writing is wonderful, warm and inviting and the romance is nicely set up. Supporting characters all get their time on stage and their own romances, and there are no anachronisms in the plotline -- Kearsley carefully discusses the issues of whether past actions by Eva are able to change her present. I really, really enjoyed this fun read on my long weekend and only regret that I can read so much faster than she can write ;)

In a blurb on the book, the Toronto Star is quoted as saying "Kearsley may be Canada's best practitioner of the genre." I disagree. There is no "may" about it. She IS the best, and has just proved it once again.


  1. You've sold it to me! Adding it to my tbr list - sounds fantastic.

  2. So glad to hear it!I know it will be easily accessible in the UK. She is a fabulous writer. So much fun to read.

  3. Haven't read a Susanna Kearsley in years. But she's great good fun, finely crafted, as I recall. Vicarious travel too. I'll put this on my list.

  4. Carin - yes, finely crafted is true. They are great reading for when I need a real mental break. Fun, romantic and atmospheric.

  5. I didn't realize I'd ever heard of Susanna Kearsley before (though I just looked her up and saw that I've seen The Winter Sea on various blogs) and I obviously didn't know she was Canadian. Your review has piqued my interest in this one!

    It was nice to see your smiling face in the Penguin Newsletter this month!

  6. avisannschild - glad I could pique your interest :) I do enjoy her books.

    And thanks for the comment on the Penguin newsletter - but if I'd known it would be out this wk I wouldn't have let my blog have a 2 week gap right at the top! ;)


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