"The Girls in the Garden" by Lisa Jewell

When Clare moves into a new home with her eleven-year-old daughter Pip and thirteen-year-old daughter Grace, she is pleased to find that the private garden square they back on to is shared by other families with children around the same age. In the bustling city of London, the garden is a place where children can roam free and are encouraged to make other people’s homes their own. Especially the home of Adele, Leo, and their three daughters.

Clare and her daughters are starting over and the girls are thrilled to quickly fall in with the crowd of kids. Clare isn’t sure she will fit in with the adults, but is happy her daughters have made friends. It may be a motley group of kids but everyone seems nice enough. Until Grace becomes the girlfriend of one of the boys in the group and runs afoul of a couple of the other girls.

One summer night, after the annual party in the garden, Pip discovers Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a tucked away area of the park. No one knows what happened to Grace and as Clare and Pip try to dig around for information, they discover that a few people know more than they are letting on and this isn’t the first time something like this happened in the garden.

The Girls in the Garden, by Lisa Jewell, is an intriguing mystery that will have readers wondering how well you can really know your neighbours and friends.

This book was an interesting read for me. There was so much that I really liked about it but at the end of the day the way in which it was set out made it just an okay read. Let’s start at the beginning. I love the premise. As someone who lives in a major city, the idea of having a home that backs on to a private communal garden sounds like heaven. A park in your backyard that only your neighbours can access? Lovely. A place in the city where kids can be free and parents don’t have to worry? Almost unheard of. But of course, it’s not as perfect as it seems.

There are lots of secrets that surround the garden, especially from the past. Ones that a newcomer like Clare wouldn’t know about but should. Even Adele, who has lived there for years doesn’t know all of the secrets it holds. This is the first part of the book, setting up the situation of the garden, introducing the people who live there and their backstories, setting up for the major incident to come. But it’s a lot of setup. And when the incident does come, it is only alluded to quickly. 

The second part of the book is the fallout of the incident in the garden. The problem with the book is this doesn’t get as much time as the setup. In fact, everything is tied up very quick and very neat. Which is disappointing. The writing is great and the first part emotionally prepares you for what is to come but it’s like what you are expecting never arrives. If this part of the book was developed further then it would have been an outstanding book. And I personally feel that the first part could have been cut down so that the second part could have been expanded upon. 

I couldn’t tell if this book was trying to be a thriller or if it was trying to be a novel about characters that happened to have a bit of a mystery to it. This left me wanting more. There is no doubt that Lisa Jewell is a talented writer and in the first part of the book she crafts a beautiful story of very different people living together. I was heavily invested in all of the characters and their surroundings. But the half-hearted development of the second part left me wanting so much more.


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