Lisa Jewell’s ‘The Girls in the Garden’ Review

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The communal gardens behind Clare’s new flat are gorgeous during the day, but become sinister as the sun goes down. When her eldest daughter, Grace, is found assaulted in those very gardens, it becomes clear that darkness lurks in the most normal of places.

Published: June 7th, 2016

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 309

4 Stars (2)

“Best to keep yourself to yourself out there. Don’t get too involved.”

 

Clare moves herself and her two daughters, Grace, aged 12, and Pip, aged 11, to a flat on Virginia Terrace after her husband’s psychotic break lead him to set their home on fire. Now, Clare’s husband, Chris, is in a mental institution seeking treatment and Clare has suddenly become a single mother over night. So when she finds the oasis that is the communal gardens, a vast area behind their flat that is a shared backyard with the other apartments, she’s happy that her girls will have a safe space to play. Clare is so concerned about her husband and what his illness could mean for the future of her family that she doesn’t notice the little things adding up, but Pip sure does.

Pip and Grace were inseparable, so when Grace moves away from Pip and gets closer to the other kids in the neighborhood Pip becomes upset and suspicious. The other kids are weird, their parents are weird, and Grace is different than before. Then, one day, Pip notices a name on a park bench in the garden; Phoebe Rednough. Phoebe was a young girl who played in that very same park, the same park where she was later found dead of a drug overdose. No one was convicted and the case has gone ice cold, but when Grace is found unconscious and half naked in the park, Pip is concerned history is repeating itself.

 

“‘Trust your instincts,’ she said. ‘You’ll find they’re nearly always right.'”

 

I really enjoyed this slow burning, realistic mystery about two girls, both past and present. While the synopsis describes only one crime, this book really has two mysteries running concurrently; poor Phoebe Renough, found dead in the communal park when she was only 15, and Grade Wild, found unconscious and half naked in the very same park on her 13th birthday. With a lot of shady characters running around and new secrets and revelations coming to light every day it becomes strikingly clear that you can never really know your neighbors.

The quote on the front of the book wasn’t lying at all; this book really did give me Big Little Lies feels right off the bat. Just the way the characters are so realistic and easy to relate to, the crime and secrets are totally plausible for today’s society, and the drama between both the parents and children and the way it fed off each other was just so much like Big Little Lies. Considering I freaking loved Big Little Lies I loved that this book gave me those vibes.

I really thought I wouldn’t like this as much as I did simply because I don’t have children and so I find that books that have a parental element are harder for me to get into and relate to simply because I have no experience with that whatsoever. However, I really enjoyed the two points of view in this story; that of the parents and that of the children. It was so interesting to see Adele and Pip running the same investigation into Phoebe’s death and then Grace’s assault at the same time, it was refreshing to see it in the different context between the two.

Pip was fantastic. Absolutely, 100% fantastic. I loved her character so much. As a sister who loves her sister very, very deeply I could relate to young Pip so much. She was such a smart young girl, always aware that things weren’t as great as others had thought they were. I loved reading the portions in her point of view and if the whole book had just been through Pip’s eyes I would have been totally fine with it. I found all the other characters great as well, there was never a moment where I though ‘ugh, I have to read in this point of view again’. In fact, I was hungry for the different view points, I was dying to know what Adele learned and then what Pip learned and then what Clare knew. Everyone was learning new things and I just needed to know it all.

There was a lot of shady stuff happening in this ‘sweet’ little communal park and it was all totally engrossing. I loved the way there were so many little side stories happening at once, it made it all the more realistic because we all understand that people have millions of different things happening in their lives at the same time. I found myself flipping pages at a lightening rate, reading in every spare moment, I just had to know what was really going on. Honestly, the parental and child drama and the way it all comes together in such a dark way reminded me of a twisted Law and Order: SVU episode.

In sum; this book is great. Belle’s Book Blog approved! I will definitely be recommending this book, staring at the beautiful cover for years to come, and looking into other Lisa Jewell books! If you, like me, really liked Big Little Lies then look into this book! You won’t be disappointed.

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