You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbours for years, and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer’s night, a 13-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
©2015 Lisa Jewell (P)2015 W F Howes Ltd
"Lisa Jewell's characters are so real that I finish every book half-expecting to bump into one of them. Modern, complex, intuitive, she just goes from strength to strength." (Jojo Moyes)
"A stunning, beautiful, mesmerising book that everyone will be reading." (Tamar Cohen)
I really loved Lisa Jewell’s The House We Grew Up In, so jumped at the opportunity to listen to the audiobook version of The Girls (also published under the title The Girls in the Garden).
All events in the book take place in one of London’s communal gardens (not having seen one I googled the term and found some amazing pictures very similar to those conjured up by Jewell’s vivid descriptions) – a green oasis in the concrete jungle where parents can let their children roam free, where neighbours meet neighbours, where people can relax in quiet green corners surrounded only by the sounds of nature. Adele’s three daughters have grown up in the garden and it has always formed a large part of their childhood. Being home schooled, the garden is more than an area to play and relax, it is also the place to meet up with their peers, form friendships, have clandestine meetings to whisper secrets and hang out with friends in the manner of ordinary teenage girls. Even Adele admits that the garden is very important to her, giving her time out from her ever present family as she bundles them into their outdoor clothes and sends them out to play, happy in the knowledge that they are safe out there whilst she snatches a few quiet moments for herself. But are they really? When Grace and Pip move into the neighbourhood, the subtle shift of loyalties and change in the pecking order is enough to throw the garden into chaos, culminating in the terrible event of one of the girls being found bloodied and unconscious in the rose garden one night, in the very spot where years ago another girl had died. Is history repeating itself? With the safety of the garden breached, neighbours are suddenly suspicious of their neighbours, spouses of their spouses. But perhaps it is the children they should really be afraid of?
I love the way Jewell characterises her protagonists and allows the reader to get into their heads, keeping just enough back to create a constant atmosphere of suspense and tension which sets the tone of the novel. Just as the characters begin to doubt their loved ones, the reader is constantly being challenged to question the actions and motives of all the players. Who can you really trust? I especially loved Jewell’s portrayal of unconventional mother Adele, whose secure and peaceful world is shattered by the events unfolding in the garden as she is forced to question the ideals that have underpinned her actions and choices her entire life. Jewell brilliantly executes the slow unraveling of this strong and determined woman, and I really felt for her. With skillful descriptive writing, an eye for detail and brilliant characterisations of all her protagonists, Jewell brought this garden and its people to life for me and I could see them vividly in my head.
All in all, a thoroughly engrossing psychological thriller cum family drama, exploring the dynamics of different families and interpersonal relationships in the face of a crisis. Well written and highly recommended. I look forward to reading the next book by this talented author.
"Well told. Compelling. Well worth it."
Author demonstrated the ability to get inside the mindset of teenagers. A nuanced and compelling read. I would recommend.
"A real find!"
Absolutely! Its a great read/listen. Its an unusual story, with just the right number of twists and turns. Its intelligently written and the characters are all well drawn, with each one interesting. It bounced along nicely and I always wanted to know what happened next.
The narration was faultless.
I wasn't sure that this would be for me, as I am not usually one for narration from a child's point of view. This book was narrated by several characters, including children. However, it was so beautifully written that it really worked. I have not read this author's work before. I read a review elsewhere from someone who said they had 'grown-up' with Lisa Jewell's books since her early 20s, and that they have evolved from stories of family life by young adults, to include older characters. For that reason, I wouldn't rush to read her earlier work. However, I will be downloading her more recent and future novels.
"A really good listen"
Chose this book quite randomly, found it quite gripping and enjoyable. Definitely would recommend it.
"not bad but not great either. "
Not bad but not exceptional felt like a lot of it was pointless and quite a bit pretentious. Definitely not worth a Richard and Judy summer read.
"Crap quick ending"
Narration was good,
Story line was slow and then at the end it just came out and ended suddenly and was a very let down
Such a shame
"Gripping story disappointing towards the end"
Interesting story with vivid characters. A lot felt left unexplained and the ending as a result felt disappointing
"Great book well narrated"
Really good book, so well narrated. I couldn't stop listening, it had my gripped. Who do you trust... By the end, not many
"Different for Lisa Jewell but just as good"
Really good read/listen. Different for Lisa Jewell but just as good as her other books. The plot twists and turns up to the end .
I very much enjoyed this book but found the storyline slightly weaker than other books by this author.
"Weak in several parts"
An interesting collection of characters, but Grace and Tyler were the only ones I knew more about by the end of the story - all the others were pretty static and caricatured (the unorthodox home-schooled girls, the holocaust survivor, the non-PC grandfather etc). The new crime mirroring an earlier one was an interesting concept, but the connection between the two was presented very quickly and briefly.
The logistics of the assault on Grace disappointed me most of all; that the perpetrator managed to do everything required whilst presumably in a state of great agitation without being observed by anyone and within a very tight timescale defied belief.
Gabrielle Glaister's narration was smooth and flowing. Her representation of different characters was skillful. Given that, why was she not given the voice of Pip's letters? I found Amelie Jewell's narration to be very irritating and in my opinion it was an indulgence to include the author's daughter as a narrator.
I bought this as half of a two-for-one deal. Had I used a credit for The Girls on its own I'd be returning it to Audible for a refund.
Hard enough starting over again, and these two got it extra tough. Highlights how rough it is growing up these days with all sorts of pressures on teens.
I enjoyed the innocence of Pip in her letters, and the misleading sidelines of the plot all the while surrounded by the backstabbing world of teenage girls. If "hell have no furry like a women scorned" they've never encountered teenagers.
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