Review: The Lost Garden

The Lost Garden
The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 The Lost Garden is Book 2 in the Tales from Goswell series, and like the first in the series, The Vicar’s Wife, it is set in England. (The Vicar’s Wife was my favorite book of 2013.)  Although The Lost Garden is book 2 in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

I relished The Lost Garden!  I shrieked with delight when characters from The Vicar’s wife appeared. It was like catching up with beloved old friends. The Lost Garden covered two time periods, the present day and the early 1900’s. Both stories were poignant and involved women who were affected by loss, guilt, and unrequited love, along with the desire to reinvigorate a garden that had been neglected and abandoned as a way to bring a little bit of joy into their grief-stricken lives. The garden is the same in both stories.  Marin Ellis, the woman of the present day, is trying to start a new life as guardian to her 15-year old half-sister, Rebecca. Their father and Rebecca’s mother were killed in a car accident. Having had no previous relationship, the two are trying to adjust to one another while struggling with feelings they secretly harbor against their respective parents.  While on holiday they fall in love with a little house on a vicarage property, called Bower House, and Rebecca convinces her half-sister to purchase it. They soon begin to settle in to their new lives and in time Marin becomes mystified by a photograph she sees of a young, unidentified woman who was standing in her little home’s walled garden with a butterfly on her fingertips, a yearning man in the background.  Who were these two people of over a century ago with the odd expressions, she wonders, and what was going on in their lives?

Eleanor Sanderson has lost her brother to war and she’s devastated. She so loved her brother Walter, and the news of his death is almost too much for her to bear.  Her brother’s friend James has returned physically unharmed by the war, but emotionally he’s a different man, a man who no longer seems interested in her sister, who he’s promised to marry.  Injured soldiers and dashed hopes permeate everyone’s existence in Cumberland, and Eleanor struggles with feelings of hopelessness. She makes up her mind to have the vicarage garden recultivated, along with the walled garden by the little house on the property where her grandmother Elizabeth resides, Bower House, to especially inspire blind soldiers with fragrant blooms that will hopefully lift their spirits; and the gardener, Jack Taylor, is just the man to help her do it. Jack has experience with the war, but Eleanor is intrigued by the way he seems able to cope, not like her brother-in-law James.  As a forbidden relationship begins to develop, secrets are uncovered and Eleanor’s life will change even further.

The two stories ultimately converge since the houses in both time periods are the same. This is referred to as a time slip novel, and I don’t know how Katharine Swartz does it every time, but she’s masterful at writing this type of novel.  I’ve enjoyed all of her stories in this particular format, and The Lost Garden was no exception. Both stories held my interest and the setting was one that I always enjoy, England.  I highly recommend The Lost Garden, and I hope there will be a book 3 in the Tales from Goswell series.

Thank you Library Thing and Lion Fiction for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: The Other Side of The Bridge

The Other Side of The Bridge
The Other Side of The Bridge by Katharine Swartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  The other side of the bridge is a beautifully written time-slip novel (a novel that covers two different time periods) that tells the story of two women,  Ava Lancet and her grandmother, Sophia Paranoussis.

Ava’s story –

Takes place in our current day. Grieving over her failing marriage and the loss of her newborn child, Ava makes the impetuous decision to leave England and travel to Greece where she has inherited her grandmother Sophia’s farmhouse, which has sat desolate for decades. Ava hadn’t even been aware that her grandmother owned a house in Greece. Nevertheless she is determined to travel there and stay in the farmhouse for an indefinite time in the hopes of sorting out her life. Her dreams of a fresh start in her grandmother’s native land are quickly shattered when she arrives to find the house in a delapidated state and practically uninhabitable. Alone and without an interim place to stay, Ava has to depend on local residents for help, and to come to terms with her spontaneous decision to move to Greece.  Fortunately for her the village of tight-knit residents are willing to lend a helping hand, especially in light of the fact that her grandmother was known to some of them. Although one particular older resident, Parthenope, becomes highly agitated when she sees Ava, as though her resemblance to her grandmother, Sophia, stirs up bad memories. But what bad memories? As Ava continues to dwell in Greece her curiosity about her grandmother’s legacy is kindled, and many secrets about Sophia are slowly revealed. And amidst it all she learns vital lessons about herself that will assist her in piecing her own life back together.

Sophia’s story –

Begins during WW2 with the German and Italian invasion of Greece. Sophia, her sister Angelika and their  father live a modest life in Iousidous, a small village in rural Greece. The girls’ mother is deceased, and discreet, sensible Sophia works hard both inside and outside of the home to keep the family safe and in tact during the perilous times in which they live. Her younger sister, Angelika, is more of an adventure seeker and foolishly becomes involved with a Greek resistance member to Sophia’s utter dismay. The resistance groups don’t all work together, and can be as much a nuisance and threat as the Nazis themselves. How could her sister be so careless? Soon Sophia is conscripted to aid the resistance and her life is changed forever.

The alternating narratives of Sophia and Ava’s stories was enthralling. Seeing how each of their lives was transformed by very different circumstances made for an interesting read. Katharine Swartz is, to me, Queen of the time-slip novel.  She is very adept at this type of storytelling.  I became acquainted with her books when I read The Vicar’s Wife, one of her other time-slip novels, which instantly became one of my favorites. I can always count on her for a good story, and that’s what I got with The Other Side of the Bridge. I enjoyed this book very much and would certainly recommend it. I only wish it had been longer.

This book was part of my Kindle Library.

You can find out more about Katharine Swartz and her books here:

http://www.amazon.com/Katharine-Swartz/e/B001JAO47U.

She also writes under the name Kate Hewitt. You can read more about her here:

http://www.kate-hewitt.com

 

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The Vicar’s Wife

The Vicar's WifeThe Vicar’s Wife by Katharine Swartz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This was a Library Thing, Early Reviewers book that I received in exchange for an honest review.

One of my favorite books of 2014. I absolutely ADORED this book!! A book is worthy of a 5 star review from me if: 1) It makes me laugh and/or cry, 2) I can’t put it down, or I can’t wait to pick it up again, and 3) It causes me to pause throughout reading and reflect on lessons learned. This book covered all three points and thus I award it 5 stars. I loved the way the author told the story of two families living somewhat similar lives albeit decades apart. The story was always interesting and kept you wondering and guessing how things would turn out for both families. There was no foul language which is always a plus for me. I continue to say a great book does not need it. It was so refreshing to read such a charming and solid work of fiction after trying to get through recent books containing weak plots, spiritistic overtones, profanity and the like. This author has helped me to have faith that there are still very good storytellers out there, and she will stay on my radar. I could easily see this book made into a movie. I highly recommend this book.

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