Posted 20 hours ago

The Gardener

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where he had been sergeant for nearly a year, headed him off and steered him directly to a commission in a battalion so new that half of it still wore the old Army red, and the other half was breeding meningitis through living overcrowdedly in damp tents. She admitted that George had always been rather a black sheep, but things might have been much worse if the mother had insisted on her right to keep the boy. It’s a job too big for one person, so Hassie hires an Albanian migrant who has broken up with his English wife to help her. The terms at his public school and the wonderful Christmas, Easter, and Summer holidays followed each other, variegated and glorious as jewels on a string; and as jewels Helen treasured them.

If there is one theme that runs through all of Vickers' novels, it is that people are a great deal more complicated than they appear at first glanceThe Gardener’s stubborn refusal to let its reader into anyone’s psyche other than Hassie’s makes it a frustrating read at times.

This is at odds with the promise of depth in the novel’s epigraph, taken from W H Auden’s poem ‘At Last the Secret is Out’: ‘there is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.

Through Hass's eyes, as she's the more regular resident, we see how they differ – in decor, in willingness to befriend the locals, and in so much else. The simply glorious descriptions of birds and flowers moving through the seasons just made this tale of the countryside sing for me.

Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds, plenty of stationery, and a passion for gardening to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. Naturally, as the economy starts to recover in May 1936, Lydia Grace informs her parents: "I saw Uncle Jim almost smile today. Here, she feels sure, she will finally succeed in “wrench[ing] [her] life round into a new pattern, one in which Robert [is] no longer [her] sun and moon, the source of [her] light, [her] measure of the months and years. We also sell books by other authors on the subject of horticulture or that related to other aspects of the estate. It gives her a chance to process her father’s death, think about her upbringing and reflect on a love affair she had with a married man that went painfully wrong, the story of which is told in snatched flashbacks tinged with drama and excitement.

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