REVIEWED BY BOOK BLOGGER LINDA HILL
The Rose Garden is a sumptuously written story of love and friendship that captivates the reader from the very first page.
Set in Hampstead, London, in 1895, Tracy Rees creates a vibrant sense of place that illustrates beautifully the contrasting environments of all social classes.
From the squalor of the area Mabs inhabits to the luxurious surroundings of Olive Westallen’s home, the reader genuinely feels they have visited the London of the time. Meticulous research means that there’s a real feeling of depth in the writing.
Kindness, love and feminist values
The Rose Garden brings together the lives of a widely contrasting set of women. It exemplifies how kindness, love and friendship can transcend class and station in life in a way that is so uplifting.
There are no great romantic stories for Olive, Mabs and Otty. But those readers wanting a burning love won’t be disappointed either as the truth about Abigail’s situation is revealed.
The Rose Garden is actually quite a feminist story too. Tracy Rees uncovers the era’s position of women alongside societal views about education and female behaviour in ways that both educate and entertain her readers brilliantly.
Mabs in particular shows how education can be a key to a better life. While The Rose Garden is set in Victorian England, it has huge resonance in today’s society.
An intimate glimpse of real lives
The plot in The Rose Garden builds quite slowly and is character led. However this is not a criticism. Instead, Tracy Rees gives the reader an intimate glimpse of real lives that feel authentic and fascinating.
Olive’s behaviour and beliefs in particular make the reader want to be more altruistic like her. In this way, reading The Rose Garden is a warm, positive experience despite the darkness and danger that also lurk in the story.
Richly textured and atmospheric
The themes in The Rose Garden are mature and thought provoking. Jill’s colour, Mabel’s social position, education for women, coercion, marriage, control, money, the New World and so on give layer upon layer of interest. What Tracy Rees illustrates so well is that material wealth does not necessarily lead to personal happiness.
Beautifully written, richly textured and atmospheric, The Rose Garden is an absolute treat. It’s perfect for an escape to the sun, or for curling up with on a winter’s afternoon. I loved it!
The Rose Garden by Tracy Rees is published by Pan Macmillan, PB, £8.99. Out now.
To read more of Linda’s book reviews visit www.lindasbookbag.com
To read a fabulous exclusive short story from Tracy Rees, pick up this week’s copy of My Weekly, on sale today.
The Windfall sees a young woman face a moral dilemma as she balances doing the right thing with the needs of her son.