The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Completion Date: May 15, 2011
Reason for Reading: I love the author!
Susanna Kearsley is the Winner of the Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction novel for 2010 (for The Winter Sea).
When Eva's film star sister Catrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Trelowarth, Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Catrina's ashes and thus return her to the place where she belongs.
But in doing so Eva must confront ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Hallets, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. Eva finds herself able to see and talk to these people, and she falls for Daniel Butler, a man who lived and died long before she herself was born.
Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards.
Today I have a buddy review with Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. This is a book that you will probably see on both our end of year Best of lists. I have the first part of the review and you can read the second part on her blog. Enjoy!
Marg: So we should probably put out a general alert before we start this discussion.
Be prepared for gushing!
Kelly: I know! I have read most of Kearsley’s books at this point, but she is going to have a very hard time topping this book and The Winter Sea. They were both excellent! She has other good books, of course, but nothing even begins to compare to her later works. She is definitely at the top of her game and hopefully we have lots more wonderful books to look forward to in the not so distant future...
I have been debating with myself about which I liked more, this book or The Winter Sea, and I really cannot make up my mind. The Winter Sea was the first book I ever read by her, so I think it maintains a special place simply for that, but it was also wonderful. When I started this book I admit I was a bit skeptical that The Winter Sea could have any real competition for favourite, but then I got wrapped up in the story and discovered that a tie was possible. What do you think?
M: I am torn too. The Winter Sea will probably always be my favourite because it was my first Susanna Kearsley and I just loved that book, but this one and The Shadowy Horses are definitely right up there for me. I agree about Kearsley being at the top of her game. I was going to make a comment on my blog saying that this was the best book she had written since The Winter Sea, but that statement kind of loses its potency, when you realise that this is the only book she has written since The Winter Sea!
K: I know! It’s hard to say anything since she only has written the one book since she gained a more international audience. I wish I had been reading her all along, but I am excited that I finally discovered her when she was going through this change in circumstances. It will be interesting to see what happens now that her books are getting better known. I always have a weak spot for Canadian authors and a desire for them to do well.
What was your favourite scene in the book?
M: I don’t know which to choose.
I think the most obvious is a scene we can’t talk about because it would spoil the book, but it comes right near the end and it literally made me gasp out loud when I read it!
Other than that I loved that the setting was Cornwall, but that Kearsley still managed to bring us something about the Jacobite rebellion that I didn’t know before. I also really enjoyed all the characters, in both times, but I must confess to a bit of a soft spot for Fergal.
K: Same as yours! When I read it, I had to put the book down and send you an email. I literally said ‘Oh, my god’ aloud when I read it. It was a perfect scene and I was excited for you to read it.
I enjoyed the setting, too. I want to go there! When I read this book, it was raining constantly here, so it sounded like paradise! Kearsley always writes such wonderful settings. Everyone of them I want to visit after reading her books. I also enjoy her main characters. I always feel like I can easily be friends with them and they are experiencing such fascinating things. It never feels like a stretch. It is very believable. I think every time I reread her books it will be like visiting with friends.
M: I already wanted to visit many of the places that Kearsley uses as settings - Scotland and Cornwall seem to have such resonance with these kind of stories. I am not sure why. I could totally see her writing a book with an Irish setting as well, because of that kind of mythical setting that is prevalent in her books.
K: What did you think of the title of the book and the cover?
M: I am not sure on the title or the cover. I think they are kind of generic. Not sure I could come up with better though! I am however glad that the title is remaining the same in all markets, unlike with The Winter Sea/Sophia’s Secret.
K: Well, the title, every time I see it, makes me start singing... Even when I opened this review to add more to it I couldn’t help thinking ‘I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden’. Until tonight when I looked it up, I had no idea who even sang that song... So, no idea why it is in my head, but it is since the book title was announced...
M: One thing I always find interesting with Kearsley’s books are the various techniques that she uses to enable to the storytelling to take place in two different places and times - whether it be through dreams, regression or whatever. How did you find the technique worked for you as a reader in this book?
K: I think the reason I love Kearsley’s books so much is because of this method. She makes it seem so natural. You want to call it a fantasy novel, but at the same time it is entirely believable. I really liked how the character in this book kept travelling through time. When she was in the other world, time in her own world stayed the same and she wasn’t even missed when she came back. The use of two times in her creative manners is definitely what leads me over and over again to read her books. I only have one left to read!
M: I have a couple left to read - particularly the hard to find ones!
We should talk a little about the actual story. The main character is Eva. Her movie star sister Katrina has recently died and Eva has been given the duty of finding a place to scatter her ashes. As Eva thinks about where that place would be, her mind turns to the place that she hasn’t lived for years but feels like home - Cornwall. She return to the village where Eva and Katrina spent their summers, and to the house where her childhood friends the Halletts still live.
The Hallett’s are battling to save their aging home, and Eva volunteers to use her publicity knowledge to help them. At first she associates the strange events with her grief and tiredness, but it quickly becomes obvious that there is something more going on.
To find out more about what happens in the book head over to Marg’s blog.
Curious about this author? Here are my links to reviews of her other books!