Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review: The Memory Garden by Rachel Hore

Hey guys! I've another 400+ pager for you today.

Cornwall is one of those places I've never been to but always been fascinated by (nothing to do with pasties, I swear), so when I saw that the majority of this novel was set there, I was sold. Here's the back cover bit:

Lamorna Cove - a tiny bay in Cornwall, picturesque, unspoilt. A hundred years ago it was the haunt of a colony of artists. Today, Mel Pentreath hopes it is a place where she can escape the pain of her mother's death and a broken love affair, and gradually put her life back together.

Renting a cottage in the enchanting but overgrown grounds of Merryn Hall, Mel embraces her new surroundings and offers to help her landlord, Patrick Winterton, restore the garden. Soon, she is daring to believe her life can be rebuilt. Then Patrick finds some old paintings in an attic, and as he and Mel investigate the identity of the artist, they are drawn into an extraordinary tale of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from a century ago, a tale that resonates in their own lives. But how long can Mel's idyll last before reality breaks in and everything is threatened?

Shifting imperceptibly from one generation to another, The Memory Garden vividly evokes the lives of two women, born a century apart, but who face the same challenges to their happiness and survival.

Firstly, I don't think the blurb is 100% accurate. The story does shift from that of Melanie Pentreath, a writer/teacher in the 2000s, to Pearl Treglown, a servant in the early 1900s. But while Pearl is struggling with recent shocking family revelations and the effects of an illicit love affair, Melanie is trying to get over her ex-boyfriend and deal moreso with her relationship with her father than the death of her mother. The only real challenge Melanie is facing is one of her own - she needs to figure out where she belongs, and who she wants to share her future with. 

I didn't instantly find Melanie likeable - it's not that I disliked her, it's just that I couldn't get a clear picture of her in my head. Usually when I start a book, I instantly picture the character - with this book, the main character seems to be the house. I just wanted to move in and start helping to clear the vines and uncover the paths. The writer conjures up an image of somewhere that is truly idyllic - and when I googled Lamorna Cove, it was just as I imagined it to be. It's a stunning place.

The author has really done her research into the artists of Lamorna Cove - her descriptions of the paintings are bang on, as you can see for yourself if you look at some of the work by artists that she mentions (Dame Laura Knight, for example). 

Melanie's story is good, it plods along at a steady pace and there aren't too many twists or turns - there's a story arc involving a Croatian lady which I find completely unnecessary, but it doesn't take away from the overall feel of the book. It's Pearl's story, however, that made me want to devour this book. It's so beautifully written and it brings the Old Hall alive, if only for a few pages at a time. I also love how the writer wrapped Pearl's story up - it was touching and sentimental without being twee, and it closed the book on a hopeful and happy note despite the reader knowing otherwise from earlier on in the book.

All in all, a solid read and one I'd recommend, if a little too long. It almost reminded me a little of Helen Moorhouse's The Dead Summer (which I reviewed HERE), but without the ghostly element. 

S xx

1 comment:

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