Honno, 2012. ISBN 978-1-906-78435-5.
The setting of Eden’s Garden is a garden, although one unlike any other. Eden’s Garden holds hidden places behind high walls, and secrets waiting to be revealed. Here too are magical glades, bathed in luminous sunlight and embroidered with dappled shadows, peopled with mysterious statues of fairy tale figures.
From the beginning, Carys, our heroine, senses the presence of ghosts. Their whispered voices tell untold stories that have been buried for generations within the stone statues in Plas Eden, the manor where these tales unfold. Greenwood herself is likely a gardener, or at the very least a lover of natural beauty. This is evident from her beautiful and sensuous descriptions of flora and fauna. Indeed the lyrical language describing Eden’s Garden was inspired, in part, by Greenwood’s visits to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.
The story begins simply enough: a young girl who dares to dream of something more. There is a boy too, a young man with his own dreams and yearnings. But are his dreams big enough for both of them? Circumstances change. These young people grow and learn, and love and lose. All the while their lives are mirrored by another parallel story, a mysterious tale harking back to a different time. The two stories expertly braided together.
Eden’s Garden is a novel rich in detail, nuance and meaning. It is a story of generations of women who gave up much in order to find themselves, to discover who they truly were. The author has blended a number of themes close to her heart and those of countless women of her generation into her tale. Which of us will not applaud the young woman as she sets off on her personal odyssey, her own Heroine’s Journey?
Although Eden’s Garden is essentially a love story, actually two—one mirroring the other, it is liberally laced with a number of themes that will resonate with most female readers. Indeed what makes this novel different is the variety of underlying women-centered subplots. Most notable among these is the feminist voice evident when the author notes her heroines. responses to the patriarchal mores of the times, as well as their reactions to the Suffragette movement in England. Greenwood’s women speak and make decisions for themselves, and it is in the doing of such that the tale unfolds.
Another noteworthy theme is the caretaking of aged parents, handled sensitively and in one place, offering an exquisitely beautiful account of the final days of a woman’s life. Then there is the related theme of the “invisible woman,” the female of a certain age generally considered to have little of worth in society. Greenwood’s characterizations suggests otherwise! The book is a marvelous tale of generations of women who achieved their full human potential by living life on their own terms, learning what it means to find true love, even while knowing that they have the freedom to follow their dreams.
Eden’s Garden is a tale of romance and mystery, self-sacrifice and fulfillment, each element lovingly enveloped in the atmospheric mists of an ancient story told again as if for the very first time.
Juliet Greenwood lives in a traditional cottage in Wales. She turned to writing after suffering a severe viral illness resulting in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is her second novel, and she has also written several stories and serials for magazines under the pen name of Heather Pardoe. When not writing she enjoys helping older people to tell their stories before they are lost forever. Visit her website.
[This review was first published on Story Circle Network Book Reviews]