Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Synopsis (from

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.

My Review

3.5 Stars

As a big fan of Susanna Kearsley - her novels Mariana and The Shadowy Horses are two of my all-time favourites - I eagerly anticipated the release of her latest book, The Rose Garden, and expected to love it every bit as much as I loved her other novels.  Unfortunately, the novel failed to live up to my expectations.   While Kearsley employed the same sort of plot devices in The Rose Garden that I thought worked so well in her other books, the story itself and the principal characters felt somewhat flat in comparison to the plot and characters of her previous novels and, as a result, the story never truly came to life for me.   On the positive side, I felt Kearsley did a great job of creating a strong sense of time - the present day and early eighteenth century - and place, which in this case was an old manor home and its surrounding area in Cornwall, England.    In addition, I also thought the transitions between the present day and the past to be smooth, which, in my experience, isn't always the case in time-slip novels.   

I don't want to leave the impression that this wasn't an enjoyable novel, as I did like it overall, but my rating has been influenced by the fact that with this novel I never experienced the same sort of magical pull into the story that left me unable to put her other novels down.   It was a good read, but, for me at least, not a great one.

Note: This novel comes from my own personal book collection.

If The Rose Garden is of interest, you might also like:

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (synopsis from

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she's at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason. As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.  Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past…until she realizes Mariana's life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (synopsis from

History has all but forgotten the spring of 1708, when an invasion fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.  But when bestselling author Carrie McClelland is drawn to the coastal town of Slains and decides to base her new historical novel there, it's an opportunity for the past to come to life.  She focuses her story on the inhabitants of Slains Castle and decides to place one of her own ancestors - Sophia Paterson - into this Jacobite stronghold, through whom she can relate events. Her subsequent discovery that Sophia did indeed live at Slains Castle during the rebellion leads Carrie to realise that this story is not entirely her own and that inspiration is coming to her direct from the past.  As Sophia memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she comes to realise that a hitherto unrealised bond with her ancestor is providing her with a direct window into the true events of the time. Mesmerizing and meticulously researched, The Winter Sea, is a haunting tale of two women's experiences of love, political intrigue and personal betrayal in two very different times.
Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine (synopsis from

Jo Clifford, successful journalist, is all set to debunk the idea of past-life regression in her next magazine series. But when she herself submits to a simple hypnotic session, she suddenly finds herself reliving the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, the wife of a baron at the time of King John.  As she learns of Matilda's unhappy marriage, her love for the handsome Richard de Clare and the brutal threats of death at the hands of King John, it becomes clear that Jo's past and present are hopelessly entwined and that, eight hundred years on, a story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to begin again...