The Sea Garden: A Novel

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Overview

Romance, suspense, and World War II mystery are woven together in three artfully linked novellas—rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere—from the critically acclaimed author of The Lantern.

The Sea Garden

On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden’s ...

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The Sea Garden

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Overview

Romance, suspense, and World War II mystery are woven together in three artfully linked novellas—rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere—from the critically acclaimed author of The Lantern.

The Sea Garden

On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden’s owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian. . . .

The Lavender Field

Near the end of World War II, Marthe Lincel, a young blind woman newly apprenticed at a perfume factory in Nazi-occupied Provence, finds herself at the center of a Resistance cell. When tragedy strikes, she faces the most difficult choice of her life . . . and discovers a breathtaking courage she never expected.

A Shadow Life

Iris Nightingale, a junior British intelligence officer in wartime London, falls for a French agent. But after a secret landing in Provence results in terrible Nazi reprisals, he vanishes. When France is liberated, Iris is determined to uncover the truth. Was he the man he claimed to be?

Ingeniously interconnected, this spellbinding triptych weaves three parallel narratives into one unique tale of love, mystery, and murder. The Sea Garden is a vivid and absorbing chronicle of love and loss in the fog of war—and a penetrating and perceptive examination of the impulses and circumstances that shape our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
05/05/2014
In Lawrenson’s (The Lantern) novel, three separate stories are connected by World War II France. In book one, British landscape designer Ellie Brooke is commissioned to create a memorial garden for the owner of a palatial estate on the tiny French island of Porquerolles in the Mediterranean. Immediately upon arrival, Ellie feels she’s made a mistake. Her client’s ideas for the garden change constantly, and his elderly mother’s temperament fluctuates between unwelcoming and openly hostile. Ellie befriends an enigmatic local historian who seems to know Porquerolles’s secrets, but even he can’t assuage her dread that someone is trying to scare her off the island. Book two follows Marthe, a blind apprentice at a Provence perfume distillery in 1943, who becomes entangled in the French Resistance when she discovers that her employers have been helping Allied fugitives flee France. In book three, Iris Nightingale, a young secretary in 1943 London, takes a clerical job at a government agency that prepares British spies for undercover work. She falls in love with one of her French contacts, endangering not just him but her friends throughout the intelligence office. Lawrenson’s settings are spellbinding and all three stories move along at a languid pace, allowing the reader to absorb the sumptuous historic detail. However, the threads tying the three stories together are too subtle, and a big reveal at the end lands awkwardly as a result. (July)
Library Journal
02/15/2014
Lawrenson's debut, The Lantern, a tale of suspense set in lavender-strewn Provence, sold nicely at 40,000 copies, so you'll want to consider this second book, a collection of novellas also set in the south of France or an island of its coast. The three novellas are connected, and all echo with the tensions created by World War II. With a 40,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-22
In three loosely connected novellas, Lawrenson (The Lantern, 2011) has created a tale of love and mystery with shifting characters, eras, locations and tones.Award-winning landscape designer Ellie Brooke is on a ferry to Porquerolles, a French Mediterranean island, when a young man goes overboard in an apparent suicide. That event sets the tone for her brief 2013 visit. Ellie has been asked to restore a memorial garden, but she's gripped with foreboding as a mysterious man appears and disappears and nightmares invade her sleep. Forced to stay the night at her host’s estate, she meets the garden’s owner, a crazy old woman; decides to reject the job; then unwisely returns the next day to retrieve a lost item. Years earlier, during the closing months of World War II, 20-ish blind woman Marthe Lincel lives with the Musset family and works in their perfume and soap refinery. The Nazis have occupied Provence, but the Musset family is allowed to continue production. Although many consider them Nazi sympathizers, they actually serve in the Resistance. Putting her Braille expertise to use, Marthe joins the movement, and when a key member fails to return from a mission, Marthe volunteers to replace her. Her courageous actions—and a chance meeting with an American soldier the Musset family is trying to move out of the country—change her future. Also participating in the war effort, Iris Nightingale is a junior intelligence officer in London who finds herself in close contact with operatives flying into and out of France. She becomes romantically involved with Frenchman Xavier Descours, who then goes on a mission and never returns. Obsessed with uncovering information about his life and fate, Iris searches for answers and, years later, discovers the truth.Readers who wade through the slowly paced narrative may appreciate its rich historical detail and lavish descriptions of the French coastline, but the revelations that weave the three stories together are anticlimactic and disappointing.
Entertainment Weekly
“Lawrenson writes compassionately and convincingly of the war’s horrors and the ways in which ordinary people become heroes, continuously building the tension toward a never-saw-it-coming convergence of the trio of tales.”
Sarah Jio
“Deborah Lawrenson’s writing is delicious. Her stories are atmospheric, intoxicating and impossible not to get lost in.”
Entertainment Weekly on The Lantern
“Sensuous…. Lawrenson’s poetic prose vibrantly conjures up both the beauty of southern France and the ghosts, real or imagined, from different eras.”
Sarah Blake
The Sea Garden weaves a double spell: Lawrenson steeps her story of the invisible heroes of the French Resistance crossing borders-and here, crossing time-deep in the eerie beauty of the South of France. The result is a marvelous strange fruit: think Graham Greene with a dash of Poe.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062279668
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/24/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 181,651
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and worked as a journalist in London. She is married with a daughter and lives in Kent, England. She and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for her novel The Lantern and inspiration for The Sea Garden.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 18, 2014

    Check out the full review at Kritters Rambings One present day

    Check out the full review at Kritters Rambings

    One present day story and two in the past make this novel.  All take place at points in France and the two historical deal with World War II.  A great spot in history to spotlight and interesting to have a present day story to tie into them.  Three different ladies are spotlighted and take the main character in each book and although at the beginning they don't seem related at the end the reader is given the connection (more on this later).

    Although I would put historical fiction with current storylines as my favorite genre, I am not sure this is one that will rise to the top for me within the genre.  This is due to - three separate books that are advertised as connected, but for me the connection was made way too late in the game and I wish there had been more connection earlier on.  This was the big glaring problem I had.  I wanted them to come together a little earlier and enjoy the connection instead of it getting thrown in at the end.

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