Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
Series: Standalone
Published: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
320 pages (ARC)
Genre: Adult Mystery
Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

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. 


I finished The Girls in the Garden several weeks ago and had no idea where to start my review. It’s one of those books I felt I needed to sit with and think about. And I did think about it - often. I was originally going to give it three stars, but over time I realized the fact I continued to think about it even weeks later meant the author had done something important and meaningful: she’d written a story and characters that aren’t easily forgotten.

I wasn’t sure what to think of The Girls in the Garden at first. I was a little confused in the beginning because of the alternating points of view between children and adults. There was such a large cast of characters, it was hard to keep track of everyone. I also felt like we were thrown into the story and expected to know what was happening and who people were. When I sorted out who was who it was easier to keep track of everyone but it was quite jarring at first.

Once I got used to the way the story was told, I enjoyed getting to see things from both the adults’ perspective and the children’s. It was an interesting, unique look at the pains of not only growing up, but also watching your children grow up. For the kids, there was so much to figure out - pushing boundaries, making discoveries, trying to grow up too fast, wanting to find their place in the world but often finding resistance from one direction or another. For the adults, there was wanting to be there for their kids without smothering them, giving them independence while trying to protect them and keep them safe, realizing they might not know their own children as well as you’d thought. Because there were so many characters and so much going on, plus getting such a close look at the lives of the people living in the garden, it was hard to know who to trust, which added a nice underlying tension throughout the story that kept me flipping pages.

Because many of the people in the garden have known each other for years and have lived there all or most of their lives, there’s this sense of intimacy in the community. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable, almost incestuous intimacy, which makes things interesting because it adds to that feeling of wondering who to trust and if there’s more going on than meets the eye. It makes you think about the people in your own life, in your own community. It was fascinating in a sick sort of way. I often felt almost like a voyeur - on the outside peering into this garden, getting a peek at the lives of these people and the secrets they keep.

In a lot of ways, The Girls in the Garden felt like it was all over the place. There was often too much time spent dwelling on small matters while other aspects of the plot seemed rushed or left open. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way things ended up, but I wouldn’t say I was disappointed either. This book made me feel a lot of contradictory things, but the fact this story has stuck with me even weeks after reading clearly means the author created a world and characters that make you think and stick with you. If you’re looking for a multi-faceted mystery with a dynamic group of characters, give The Girls in the Garden a try.

Have you read The Girls in the Garden? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to?


  1. I agree with this, I liked it perhaps a bit more (probably a 4 star for me) and it's definitely thought provoking. I especially agree about it exploring how well you know someone, including a parent knowing their kids. I had that thought too as I was reading. I also thought there was a lot happening here, with the secrets and the father situation/ mental illness. a lot to keep track of! Nice review.

    1. Thank you! And yes, adding in the father situation - a character we only heard about and didn't see through most of the book - added to there being a lot to keep track of.

  2. Wow! Would you look at that cover? I want to live in that house! This one sounds like one is like. Though, the jarring beginning and too much going on thing worries me.

    1. Isn't it beautiful? As I was reading, despite the creepy vibe of the book, I kept thinking I'd like to live in a place like that. I do think you'd enjoy the book!


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