The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Source: Harper and TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 384 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson is not your typical novel in that there are three distinct novellas inside with three distinct protagonists, who just happen to be connected.  The atmosphere and settings play a large role in the novel, setting the stage for the mystery and espionage that unravels, but the beginning of this novel is deeply mysterious, almost too mysterious.  It is like the author was unsure of whether this should be a ghost story or something less Gothic.  Readers meet Ellie Brooke at the beginning as she makes her way abroad to Porquerolles near France to meet with a potential client about reviving a memorial garden.  The landscape is lush and old world, almost as if it were stuck in time, and Ellie begins to sense that there is something not quite right with her client’s family and their intentions.

“Under close questioning, however, the picture in her mind did not seem as robust as it had been.  She judged it unwise to say so.  Best to go with her instincts that her memory was true.”  (page 25)

These women are searching for truth in the darkness, with Ellie searching for her client’s motivations and Marthe searching for the connections she had with the outside world before she lost her sight and Iris looking to reconcile the past.  The second section and third sections of the book are set in WWII, unraveling the background of the story in a winding fashion as if following a darkened path through the woods before reaching the vast openness of the sea.  There are clues along the way to help readers gauge where the story is headed and how it all connects back to the first third.  From the underground dealings of the French Resistance that relied upon deceit and subtle signals in the perfume worn by network members to the secret codes embedded in innocuous notes and wireless signals over radio waves, readers will learn about the precarious nature of these resistance fighters’ lives and the love that they shared across the boundaries that they crossed morally, emotionally, and physically.

“On the southwestern side of the island the path opened out into a small bay, reinforced by jagged rocks.  All seemed at peace.  It was too early in the year for tourist hordes; here was freedom from the modern world, for a while at least.  There was a timelessness about being on an island so small that it seemed closed in on itself; the sense of being adrift, not quite connected to the rest of the world.”  (page 31)

The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson is as mysterious as the rundown memorial garden on the island, but as the crevices are scrutinized and the relics uncovered, they mystery begins to unravel a truth that has long been buried in secrets of the French Resistance and WWII.  These strong women must cope with what they uncover and reconnect with the past.  Being undercover in an enemy territory can be as lonely as living on an island disconnected from reality, but there is nothing more disconcerting than being unaware of your own past, only to uncover it when you least expect it.

Photo credit: Rebecca Eifion-Jones

About the Author:

Deborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and worked as a journalist in London. She is married with a daughter and lives in Kent, England. She and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for her novel The Lantern and inspiration for The Sea Garden.  Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook.



14th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in France and England)




24th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





18th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.





43rd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #277

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. The Art of Neil Gaiman: The Visual Story of One of the World’s Most Vital Creative Forces by Hayley Campbell for review from Harper.

Novelist, comics writer, scriptwriter, poet, and occasional artist, there are few creative avenues Neil Gaiman hasn’t ventured down—from unforgettable books like The Ocean at the End of the Lane and American Gods to groundbreaking comics and graphic novels like The Sandman and Violent Cases; from big-screen fantasies like Coraline and Stardust to small-screen epics like Doctor Who and Neverwhere; and from short stories to songwriting, stage plays to radio plays, journalism to filmmaking, and all points in between.

The Art of Neil Gaiman is the first book to tell the full story of his amazing creative life. Never-before-seen manuscripts, notes, cartoons, drawings, and personal photographs from Neil’s own archive are complemented by artwork and sketches from all of his major works and his own intimate recollections. Each project is examined in turn, from genesis to fruition, and positioned in the wider narrative of Gaiman’s creative life, affording unparalleled access to the inner workings of the writer’s mind.

2. The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffrey for review from Blogging for Books.

Due to the revived interest in vegetable gardening, people are again turning to the age-old practice of companion planting as an effective way to avoid chemicals and reduce labor simply by placing the right plants next to each other in the garden. This book is designed to help gardeners mix and match various companion plant pairs and groups to create healthy, harmonious botanical communities. All you have to do is choose from the extensive plant directory to find the perfect plant pals. Each central crop has a row of colored dots along the top and bottom of the strip showing its “requirements”–that is, what it’s looking for in a companion plant, whether it be a support while growing and a pest deterrent or a soil conditioner and a nutrient accumulator. Turn the strips and match the dots to find your plants’ best friends. The more dots that match, the better the chance your plants will flourish

3. The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson for review in July for TLC Book Tours.

On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden’s owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian.

4.  Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom, an unexpected surprise that will be passed along to another reader.

When Molly Bloom was a little girl growing up in a small Colorado town, she watched her brothers win medals, ace tests, and receive high praise from everyone they met. Molly wanted nothing more than to bask in that glow a little herself, so she pushed herself too—as a student, as an athlete. She was successful but felt like she was always coming from behind. She wanted to break free, to find a life without rules and limits, a life where she didn’t have to measure up to anyone or anything—where she could become whatever she wanted.

Molly wanted more, and she got more than she could have ever bargained for.

5.  Art From Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage, and Poetry by Susan Levin for review in September.

ART FROM DREAMS, MY JUNGIAN JOURNEY in COLLAGE, ASSEMBLAGE, and POETRY celebrates artistic expression as an exploration for self-awareness. Art-making and poetry reveal to ourselves and to others the images and feelings that arise within us in dreams. The very process of creation taps into the source of our inner wisdom. Poetry itself can be accessible as a collage of named images put together in various forms to communicate to and from our innermost selves.

What did you receive?