Book Review: The White Garden – Stephanie Barron

Title: The White Garden
Author: Stephanie Barron
ISBN: 9780553385779
Pages: 336
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

American landscape designer Jo Bellamy travels to England to study Sissinghurst’s White Garden, which her clients want her to recreate in their Long Island garden. But she also has a personal motive for going – she thinks she may be able to study her grandfather’s past and hopes to understand why he recently committed suicide. What Jo doesn’t expect is that she finds an old journal in a tool shed she believes was written by Virginia Woolf (the White Garden’s creator was Woolf’s lover), and that discovery has surprising consequences and leads to startling revelations.

Review:

I don’t know much about Virginia Woolf, but luckily that’s not necessary in order to enjoy The White Garden.  Barron fills the author in on all the little details readers need to know about her life in order to understand the novel.  At the same time, I feel like a greater knowledge of Woolf’s life might have served to enhance my understanding and appreciation of the novel…or it might have meant I knew too much and wouldn’t have been able to buy the twists and turns of the book.  It’s interesting to wonder either way, and I’d be curious to hear from someone who is very familiar with the details of Woolf’s life and has read the book.

The White Garden has some of the typical elements of a “lost manuscript” novel – a race to discover its provenance, working against difficult superiors, a rival that threatens everything. In fact, the book reminded me quite a bit of a more commercial version of Possession by A.S. Byatt.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Barron had read Possession and if some of the scenes were inspired by that novel, as there were some striking similarities.  That being said, The White Garden doesn’t have the heft or gravitas of Possession and is a thriller/contemporary fiction novel, rather than a work of literary fiction.

I enjoyed The White Garden; it was a fun, easy read and it kept my interest from beginning to end. Fans of literary mysteries should definitely consider picking this book up; it’s got some fun action and quick thinking without being Da Vinci Code-esque.  I also enjoyed learning a little about an author I know of, but have never read, and am inspired to pick up one of Woolf’s work soon.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Comments

  1. On one level this sounds like it’d be a fun read, but I’m not sure I’d pick it up. I like Woolf, and I’d be curious to see what you think of her.

  2. On one level this sounds like it’d be a fun read, but I’m not sure I’d pick it up. I like Woolf, and I’d be curious to see what you think of her.

  3. While I did really love Possession, I am not sure that I would like a book that seems to take so much from that storyline. I also know nest to nothing about Woolf, and think that that would be a definite hindrance to me. I also would be curious to hear what you think of Woolf when you read her. I have long been intimidated by her, but really need to get over that.

  4. While I did really love Possession, I am not sure that I would like a book that seems to take so much from that storyline. I also know nest to nothing about Woolf, and think that that would be a definite hindrance to me. I also would be curious to hear what you think of Woolf when you read her. I have long been intimidated by her, but really need to get over that.

  5. I like the link with Woolf as I like her writing. Curious about this book now!

  6. I like the link with Woolf as I like her writing. Curious about this book now!

  7. I picked up the book because of my fascination with Sissinghurst (where much of the plot takes place). I agree with you – it was good for what it was and nothing much beyond that. If you like Vita Sackville-West or you like literary mysteries, especially ones that have you tracking clues like a treasure hunt, then this is for you.

  8. I picked up the book because of my fascination with Sissinghurst (where much of the plot takes place). I agree with you – it was good for what it was and nothing much beyond that. If you like Vita Sackville-West or you like literary mysteries, especially ones that have you tracking clues like a treasure hunt, then this is for you.

  9. I picked up the book because of my fascination with Sissinghurst (where much of the plot takes place). I agree with you – it was good for what it was and nothing much beyond that. If you like Vita Sackville-West or you like literary mysteries, especially ones that have you tracking clues like a treasure hunt, then this is for you.

  10. I picked up the book because of my fascination with Sissinghurst (where much of the plot takes place). I agree with you – it was good for what it was and nothing much beyond that. If you like Vita Sackville-West or you like literary mysteries, especially ones that have you tracking clues like a treasure hunt, then this is for you.

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:  I welcome comments and read each one I receive. If your comment needs a response, I will provide it in a timely manner, as I read every comment I receive. Please keep your comments civil and polite! I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or inappropriate. Because of spam, I have to moderate comments on old posts. Please be patient - I will approve your comment quickly.

Before the tag in the Genesis footer: !-- Quantcast Tag -->