Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

When Eva’s filmstar sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Trelowarth, Cornwall , where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina’s ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs. But Eva must also confront the 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 Halletts, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. When Eva finally accepts that she is able to slip between centuries and see and talk to the inhabitants from hundreds of years ago, she soon finds herself falling 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

Today, Kelly from The Written World and I are doing a joint review of The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley! Head over to Kelly's blog to read the first half (be warned it is a bit gushy!)

Kelly's thoughts are in black and mine are in purple.


Yes, talking about the actual story is probably a good idea. The story starts off on a very negative note when Eva loses her sister, but the book becomes about much more than that. It is obvious why Eva is so connected to Cornwall. It was just the place that she is meant to be. She goes through a lot while she is there. The Hallett son was Katrina’s first love and even though many years have gone by and she married someone else, he is still battling with the emotions that her death evokes. His father has died and he is tending the family gardens, but he hates the public side of things and is resistant to much change. His sister, though, has big ideas and Eva helps her discover them by advertising the tea house that she has built. That tea house is so much more to the story, though... The reason it came to be in the first place was a touching story.

Given that you have read other books by Kearsley what did you think when Eva started hearing voices?

I wasn’t really surprised because I knew there was something of that nature to expect, but it was just a matter of finding out what method she was going to choose. That didn’t mean there were not a lot surprises in store, though!

So, the hearing voices is the first clue that all is not as it seems, which becomes even more obvious when Eva finds herself in the same house, but that it is occupied by different people in a different time. The house is occupied by a widower, Daniel Butler and his friend Fergal. They are men with a secret of their own - secret Jacobite supporters. The local constabulary, especially Constable Creed, is deeply  suspicious of the Butlers and an unexplained woman appearing could make things awkward, especially as she is sometimes there and sometimes isn’t, and she can’t really talk due to her obvious accent and different use of language. Also add into the mix a bit of smuggling and the charismatic and vivid brother Jack and life becomes very complicated all round.

First of all, I loved the characters you mentioned. I know, I am getting off track, but I can’t help pointing out how well written they all were! From the very beginning I loved Daniel. The very first scene was entertaining and I enjoyed watching him develop as a character each time she ‘magically’ appeared. I believe that he really brought the early setting to life by being so realistic. I could picture him and everything that was going on around him. I also love Fergal. Sometimes I think he was simply there to lighten the mood from time to time, but then Jack appeared and took that to a whole different level. Jack is interesting to say the least! In many ways the opposite of his brother, but he grew on me with time. Then, there was the very well-written villain, Constable Creed. I have to admit that I was not there, I was just reading about it, but every time the ‘law’ paid them a visit he creeped me out. It made the story dark just having him there and you never knew what was going to happen, but you felt like it was going to be bad. I cannot applaud Kearsley enough for writing such excellent characterizations. It is why I enjoy her books so much - coupled with the fact she writes fascinating story-lines, captures the time period very well, and has settings that I always want to visit!

Oh yes, the law man was totally, totally creepy!

One other aspect that I did find interesting was the fact that when Eva travelled through time, the treatment of the clothing aspects seemed very logical. I loved that she kept on having to hide the 18th century clothes (including Daniel’s dressing gown) in the future. It also tied in to her worries about changing things in the past.

I appreciated the fashion in general. That was another thing that was explained very well. I can just imagine how hard it is to go from the fashion of today to the fashion of the 18th-century. It was the same in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. In this book the two men knew that she had no idea what she was doing so they aided her, but I found the description illuminating because it is not something I generally think about. The clothes themselves worked well to tie in other things, as well. One of the dresses that she brings back to the modern world belong to Daniel’s deceased wife, so using this one dress we learn more about Daniel and his past that might not have come up right away.

So wrapping up now, Kearsley has once again done a stellar job of making time slip seem like a completely probable possibility, has delivered a lushly romantic story, and this time also made us both gasp out loud with a fabulous twist in the tale!

I know! I have been writing this review and thinking ‘I want to read this again...’ I also want to reread her other books all of a sudden! It has brought the story back and reminded me just how much I loved this book, which I had not entirely forgotten, of course. I am so happy that you, and a few other people, lead me to read her because for the longest time I didn’t think she was my type of writer. I was wrong!

I could do with rereading as well, but I have lent the book to my non reader sister, who just read her first Kearsley and enjoyed it.

Ever since I first read The Winter Sea I have been encouraging everyone (not just you!) I know to read Susanna Kearsley. This book has reinforced that desire even more! So, if you haven’t read Kearsley, what are you waiting for?


  1. I haven't read anything by this author but I have this book, and now I'm really excited to read it. I'm really curious about the twist at the end!

  2. I also haven't read anything by this authorm but have heard nothing but good things about her work. Thanks for the recommendation. Love the review :) Good job!

  3. I love joint reviews, so this was a treat for me today! I also love books that even tangentially feature time travel, so this is something that I think I would really relish. I am glad that you guys enjoyed it too! Great to see your thoughts!

  4. Oh! such a novel way to review. I just happened to chance upon your blog and read this review. Amazing, really. I hope to read this book sometime soon.
    Thanks :)

  5. I haven't read anything either by this author...liked the way you both did the review.

  6. Okay, all you people who haven't read Susanna Kearsley.... I am going to harass you all until you do!

    Well, maybe not, but I do strongly (and I do mean strongly) encourage you to do so.

    Dovereader, doing a joint review is a fun way to review!