This is the first novel by Salley Vickers I have read and, after finishing it, I am keen to read her others. It transported me to the Welsh Marches, that area along the border between Wales and England. Any writer who can evoke such a strong sense of place engages me.
Hassie Days, an illustrator, and her sister, Margot, use the inheritance from their father to buy a Jacobean house in the country. Both the house, Knight’s Fee, and garden are run down and need care and hard work to restore. While Margot continues to commute to her finance job in London, Hassie takes on the task of clearing and nurturing the garden.
The story slips between Hassie’s memories of her past life: her relationship with her sister and parents, and that of her ex-lover whose absence has left her unanswered questions.
There’s also a thread of mystery throughout the book. Hassie begins to explore the history of the house and its surrounds and discovers the past has not necessarily disappeared.
It is this quote that summed up the appeal of The Gardener for me:
“The stars that night, as I stood in the hallowing darkness in which Knight’s Fee is couched, seemed brilliant points of conjunction in a vast and invisible net; and gathered within it were all our histories down the ages, right back to the beginnings of time.
“See, see, the stars soundlessly sang, you are not alone. All and everything that came before you is here with you now.”
Not everything in life is elucidated; rather, it can be only experienced and perhaps inexplicable. For this reason, I loved this story.
Five stars from me.
Read more about The Gardener on Goodreads.