Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book review: The Girls in the Garden

Title: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell

Goodreads Summary:

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? 

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

My Thoughts:

I could not put this book down! I was fascinated by the dynamics of the characters in this story. I am so drawn to books that are character driven with cool settings, and this book was both.

This book was unusual, and I think that is why I liked it. It didn't follow the normal path that I expected it would. Everything in this book played with conventions - traditional vs. alternative, from parenting to living arrangements, to children's names and even pets. Things were turned upside down everywhere, forcing your brain to look at things in ways you didn't expect. Was this always successful? Perhaps not, but it was always interesting.

The children in this book ran free and wild, without much supervision from parents, either through a parenting choice (Adele), neglect (CeCe), or too much trust in the park itself (Clare). Where one may believe this kept the children safe or innocent, it had mixed results. The girls in the garden I believe refers to more than just Pip and her sister Grace, who were the new girls in the park, whose presence upset the whole social ecosystem that was in place. An influx of new thoughts and ideas, girls who had not been raised in this communal environment their whole lives and brought with them, in essence, the rest of the world. Despite this, they began as the most innocent.

The mystery itself kept me guessing - Jewell did a great job at making everyone seem suspect. The ending was unexpected, and slightly unsatisfying, but I think it fit the story and the characters well. And, I think, it is an ending that could actually happen in reality.

 You have to wonder, can such a self-contained world remain pure, or will it eventually warp upon itself?

One last thing - these giant rabbits! I totally want one! One of the characters in the book has a giant rabbit on a leash, and a cat in a box. Again, with the upside down. I looked the rabbit up, a Flemish Giant, and it appears they are definitely real. I wonder how one would get along with my cats?

Click on the pic for source and more info!
For more info on this guy, click his photo. I loves him!!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked how Jewell skewed things, instead of doing the expected. I hate writing such vague reviews but  I really don't want to give anything away!! My suggestion: if you are in the mood for a quick read, but one that keeps you guessing and introduces you to interesting characters, then this book is for you. Give it a whirl - maybe even read it in a park on a warm day with a breeze, surrounded by the sounds of children playing, and think about how children playing can sometimes be less than innocent.


  1. I liked this book a lot, and agree with your points. I loved the idea of the garden but at the same time it wasn't exactly this paradise I think some of the adults thought it was. And Pip and Grace really did upset the apple cart just by arriving. The other thing that got me was the sense of how little we can really know our kids or the people around us- they have whole worlds they live in distinct from family time or whatever, whether it's peer pressure or schools or whatever. Kinda chilling. :)

    I agree about the ending, slighlty unsatisfying. But you're right, I can sort of see it happening that way too.

    Definitely thought provoking.

    1. Exactly - it's like they thought it was a garden of innocence but it was not necessarily so..hmm maybe there are some sort of biblical comparisons going on here too!

      You are so right about how little people know kids or other people around them - so scary to think about really. Everyone has secrets.

      I liked this book a lot!

  2. From just your review alone, this plot sounds intriguing! I've seen that bunny on IG but usually bypass those posts. I didn't know his ears were shaped that way. Haven't see a rabbit that breed before. What a trip.

    1. I really enjoyed this read! It wasn't always comfortable but that is ok. Sometimes you need to be shaken up while reading.

      Ha that bunny! I love it!! That person has two of them - Wally and Suki. I told Billy I want one!! I think Wyatt needs one. Lol.

  3. I'm always impressed when an author can surprise me. It's great to find a book (and an author) who can keep you turning pages way past your bedtime!

    1. Agreed! I have not read this author before but since finishing this book, I have been poking around it seems she is quite popular. I think I am going to have to look up more of her work!

  4. I enjoyed 'The House We Grew Up In' by Jewell. I have this novel and hope to read it soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.

  5. Great review. I need to pick this one back up. For some reason I struggled with getting into the story and I think it's because I didn't like the adults. I need more patience too. It did remind me of Liane Moriarty's books which I usually love.

    1. The adults are all pretty unlikable. Honestly, most of the characters are, except for the youngest daughter Pip!

  6. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one, Erin. I still have yet to rate The Girls in the Garden on Goodreads with a star rating, as I have so many mixed thoughts on the book! Like you, I found the ending disappointing - it all felt very abrupt and I wanted more from it. Like you say though, it did feel realistic in a way.

    I liked how all the characters were developed and introduced, but I wasn't keen on the way in which the garden was romanticised in a way... The children had free range really, and that clearly lead to some disastrous results. As a parent, that really kind of makes you think, doesn't it?!

    I also wasn't keen how some things were kind of passed over - like the relationship CeCe had in her youth with Adele's husband - like it was totally okay for an underage girl to be with an adult. I don't know.

    I feel like I can't even properly explain my thoughts on this one. Haha. Things I loved, and things irked me!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts :-)

    1. I know right, it leaves you a bit mixed up feeling!

      I have always wanted to live in one of those shared community things, which are very similar to the set up in this book. I like to think I could be a crunchy, free-range mom, but maybe, when it comes down to it, I couldn't do it. I don't know if I could trust other people that much with my child, and I know that I could never allow Wyatt to speak to me like Adele's children spoke to her!!

      I agree, some things were thrown in just to keep us from guessing who did it, but then they were never resolved. They needed to be explained or something needed to happen - just using them as a plot device to advance the story is not quite enough. The CeCe relationship when she was 13 gives me the heebie jeebies too. Bleck. Maybe that was to illustrate that the blind eye that is given to the kids has been going on for as long as kids have been running free in the garden?

      Also, this might be taking things to far, but do you think there are parallels between the Bible, the garden of good and evil, and the garden in this book? Hmm.


I love hearing from people, don't be shy! I would love to hear what you think! I always reply back, although it takes me a bit longer these days due to the little guy.