24 March 2022

Review: THE GARDENER, Salley Vickers

Synopsis (publisher

A charming new novel about two sisters who buy a ramshackle country house together, from the bestselling author of The Librarian and Grandmothers

'Two sisters, Halcyon and Marguerite Days, after heated exchanges and months of debate, had put together the money left them by their father and bought Knight's Fee, a house in Hope Wenlock, just on the English side of the Welsh Borders. The house was timbered, roomy and, certainly on the outside, picturesque; "a jigsaw picture house", it was described by the agents (a description which had for some time set Hassie against going to view it). What she had seen, when Margot's persistence eroded her resistance, was a rambling redbrick building, covered in Virginia creeper, with a sprawling garden, invaded by weeds, yellow fungi, and clumps of brooding nettles. . .'

When the sisters hire Murat, who has recently arrived in Hope Wenlock from Albania, to be their gardener, they unwittingly unleash tensions in the quiet English village they have begun to call home. The Gardener is a beautifully observed tale of sisterhood, secrets, belonging and new beginnings, from the best-selling author of The Librarian.

My Take

It is books like this that make me wonder why I don't read more outside the crime fiction genre. Too much inside the genre competing for my attention I suppose.

I have listed Salley Vickers as a "new to me author" although I'm pretty sure I have read one title by her at least, but possibly decades ago.

This to me was a reminder that sometimes you just need to read books that explore relationships, rather than always solving murder mysteries. There are mysteries in THE GARDENER but they are not the primary focus.

A gentle read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, the child of communist parents. She grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, living in Barlastan Hall, where her father was warden of a W.E.A. college that taught adult education to Trades Union workers. She moved to London aged three and lived there for the remainder of her childhood.

She wrote her first novel, “The Door Into Time”, aged nine, thanks to an enterprising primary school teacher. The novel is lost but she believes it has influenced all her subsequent work and she regards her education at this state primary school as some of the most nourishing she has been lucky enough to receive. It is a source of great regret to her, that the current primary school curriculum is so narrow and so uncreative.

Her greatest love is poetry, which she writes badly, and her three grandchildren, whom she sees as often as they allow. She also likes music, especially opera and 60s/70s rock, walking, gardening and dancing. Her first ambition was to be a ballet dancer. One of her greatest pleasures is being able to take her granddaughter to the ballet.

She has worked as a teacher for children with special needs, for the now defunct ILEA, a tutor for the W.E.A. and for the Oxford Department of Continuing Education, a university lecturer in English, a psychoanalyst and she now writes and lectures fulltime.

She divides her time between London and Wiltshire, with regular retreats to Corfu, where she has made many friends, both with Corfiots and Albanians.

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