This week I read The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore. My bloggy friend, Linda, posted about it here, and I wanted to read it based on her review. I will keep my review brief and refer you to Linda's post. Linda also has another blog, News from Italy, I enjoy reading, too.
Last week, I wrote about The Winter Sea, and I loved it because it was two stories in one book. I was a little surprised that The French Gardener also contained two separate stories. It has been a joy reading two very good books in a row.
The French Gardener is about a young couple, David and Miranda Claybourne, who have moved from London to rural Dorset. They purchase a sprawling estate that is reputed to have had the most beautiful garden in England. The reason for the move: their troubled son, Gus, has been expelled from his elementary school, and David decides that moving to the country will help his son's behavior. The couple also have a daughter named Storm. Both children are attention starved and disturbed by the move. Miranda is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the estate, so she seeks to hire a cook, housekeeper, and a couple of gardeners to right the garden that has gone to seed. Storm finds a gardener while out playing one afternoon, and he helps her find her way back home. He is French, very handsome, and looking for work.
Miranda offers the estate's neglected cottage by the river to the gardener. While renovating the dilapidated structure, she finds a mysterious scrapbook that celebrates a rare and beautiful love. The story took place over a year's time over 26 years ago. Miranda is captivated by the scrapbook and the story it tells. She decides to keep the scrapbook to herself, and it becomes a muse to her work as a writer.
David is away all week in London working, and he feels a bit out of place when he comes home for the weekend. The gardener, Jean-Paul, is fantastic with the kids, and they bond with him because he spends time playing with them. He works tirelessly to bring the garden back to its former glory, but it seems that the more Jean-Paul accomplishes in the garden, the more resentful David is of his influence on the estate and his family. The Claybournes are in jeopardy, and there are secrets that could tear the family apart.
The book is divided into the four sections based on the seasons, and follows the story depicted in the scrapbook as well as the transformation of the Hartington House estate and the Claybourne family. I love the descriptions of the garden, main house, cottage, and Jean-Paul's vineyard in France. There is something very special about books set in gardens, and it makes me want to learn much more about gardening and own acreage one day. Two other books set in gardens I really liked are The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and The Savage Garden by Mark Mills.
Have you read any good books with garden settings?
Until next time...