Sunday, 25 January 2009

Book Review: The Memory Garden by Rachel Hore

Genre: Fiction
Pages: 400
Publisher: Pocket Books

Lamorna Cove, in Cornwall's far west, is a tiny bay set at the mouth of a secluded wooded valley of wild beauty, the haunt, a hundred years ago, of a close-knit colony of artists. Here, to a rented cottage in the overgrown gardens of Merryn Hall, Melanie Pentreath retreats from her busy London life as a lecturer in art history to research a book about the painters, and to seek solace following the death of her mother and a broken love affair. In this magical place, full of echoes of the past, Mel helps her landlord, Patrick Winterton, restore the garden and starts to pull together the shreds of her life. Patrick finds some old paintings in a glory hole in one of the attics, and as they uncover the identity of the artist they are drawn into an extraordinary story of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from the Edwardian past which proves resonant in Mel's own life. Merryn is an idyll, and Mel and Patrick, himself here to escape a romantic disappointment, find themselves drawing closer to one another - until the reality of the outside world once more intervenes and everything is threatened.

The book started well, with Mel moving to the Gardeners Cottage of Merryn Hall while she writes her book, and then starts to renovate the very overgrown huge garden that had been neglected for nearly 100 years. Then she meets the young and handsome Patrick, who has recently inherited Merryn Hall from his deceased uncle.

The story goes back into the past occasionally where we meet Pearl, the new maid, who loves painting. I really enjoyed this part of the book and wish that the author could give us more of Pearl's story. But I guess that wasn't the idea.

I loved the descriptions of the garden - I could easily imagine the weeds, overgrown flowers, the greenhouse, the laurel maze, the secret grotto, among others. What an amazing garden it sounded.

But somehow I felt it lost its way about half way through and I must admit I did lose interest a little bit, but only a little, before it picked up and swept me along again.

I thoroughly enjoyed it overall.


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