Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Deborah Lawrenson's novel, The Sea Garden, is composed of three short stories which are seemingly unconnected but which ultimately come together in unexpected ways. The first story, called The Sea Garden, centers on Ellie Brooks, a young woman arriving on the French Mediterranean island of Porquerolles to work on a garden commission. As Ellie sketches out her ideas, she is bothered by misgivings about the elderly woman who found and convinced her son to hire Ellie and she feels as if her only ally in the increasingly menacing situation is an elusive war historian. The second story, called The Lavender Field, tells the story of a young blind French girl who works at a perfume factory and discovers that the family who has taken her in works in a Resistance cell. Marthe must decide whether she has the courage to join in with this dangerous work as well, especially after a tragedy threatens to derail long held planning. And the third story, A Shadow Life, is also set during WWII. In it, a junior British intelligence officer named Iris falls in love with a French agent. When the war ends, Iris is determined to discover what happened to her lover, despite accepted evidence that he was possibly a double agent.

Each of the stories is completely self-contained but toward the end of the third story, the other two stories are tied in to the mystery of whatever happened to Iris's lover. The first story, set in the present day, has a gothic feel to it with a rising tension and hints of the paranormal. There are some plot aspects that aren't resolved entirely satisfactorily until the third story and there are one or two things that are raised, like the suicide of the young man on the ferry in the opening of the story, that are used for atmosphere but need a bit more to be fully realized in the story. The second and third stories are significantly different in tone than the first story, completely lacking the threatening tone that pervades the first. These latter two stories tell of different aspects of the war and are representative of the many stories that make up the whole of the war. They are fascinating in a historical sense and interesting for the personal touch they bring to the Resistance and to British intelligence. Lawrenson has done a phenomenal job in connecting all three individual stories in the end and in revealing the mystery and secrets behind the whole.

The descriptive passages here are very visual and evocative and Lawrenson's managed to conjure up the scents to which Marthe, as a blind woman, would have been so very sensitive. Each of the stories are atmospheric and well researched, from gardening to the war and the main characters are all strong women, appealing and intelligent. The structure was an interesting one that required a little work on the reader's part to remember well each story and make the connections that tied the whole together. Historical fiction readers, specifically those with an interest in WWII, and those who enjoy mysterious fiction will enjoy this novel immensely.

For more information about Deborah Lawrenson and the book, check out her website, Facebook page, and her blog. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. This is on my TBR along with her other books. Thanks for the review.

  2. I like that the connection isn't apparent until the third story - I like seeing things all come together and make sense.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts