the walled garden book coverMy wild heart . . . my walled heart

Author: Robin Farrar Maass

Lucy Silver is a fish out of water. A young graduate student with an unfortunate (much regretted and inescapable) relationship with her dissertation professor, Lucy is looking to solve a mystery in her family and make her way in the world. Instead, she finds herself chasing the ghosts of what might have been.

Lucy has followed the legacy of famed poet and gardener Elizabeth Blackspear to her historic estate and gardens in Bolton Lacey.  For Lucy, Elizabeth isn’t just a historical figure with a tragic back-story, a woman who made her escape through verse and the language of flowers. Elizabeth was Lucy’s grandmother’s continual correspondent; and buried somewhere in the code of those long ago letters is the answer to a strange period in Elizabeth’s life, a time when she went missinheart in hedgeg. At Elizabeth’s estate, surrounded by gardens and an archive of old documents, Lucy is sure that she can finally unravel the secret of that strange year in Elizabeth’s life. Instead, she opens the vault of her own heart and, alone in a secret garden, she discovers emotions deeper than she could have imagined, a mistaken sacrifice, and a history of secret love, forbidden longing, and inescapable pain that still trills through the air like the call of a mourning dove. In beauty, there is hurt and a deeper kind of language.

The Walled Garden is a truly atmospheric novel; it’s a mystery with the lyrical beauty of a spring day and the yearning of a young and broken heart. It is equal parts gorgeous and poignant, and this sadness weaves the reality of a close group together. As Lucy pours over old letters and looses herself in the beauty of the estate gardens, she forgets her dissertation and becomes enmeshed in another time and place, one that will have surprising consequences for her and the people she has come to love.

As Lucy works through the hidden things in Elizabeth’s life, discovering the clues left behind in each and every flower, the placing of statues, and the code of letters, she finds herself enmeshed in a romance, one that has complications and misunderstandings. Like Elizabeth before her, nothing is simple about Lucy’s choices, and whatever she chooses someone will be hurt.

butterfly on flowersAs the strands of the stories and lives come together over one spring, another figure lurks in the background. The director of the gardens is deliberately hiding things from Lucy, obscuring her access to the archive and working on a project of his own, one that could unravel everything that Elizabeth left behind.

Buried in between the mistakes of the past, there is new growth. It is not without pain and discovery and none of it is simple. In this garden of so many vibrant colors, there is no black and white, only beauty and grief. The Walled Garden has an odd peace to it, a sadness that breads compassion and empathy, a certain coziness that never deviates from the messy reality of life and love, betrayals and moments lost, communications hidden and secrets discovered far too late. It is a beautiful novel, but above all, it is powerful and memorable. A joy to read both for the story that it tells and the way in which it tells it, The Walled Garden is a thoughtful, provocative piece not to be missed. Highly recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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