The Garden of Lost Secrets

When Clara goes to stay with her aunt and uncle she is given an attic room overlooking the stunning stately gardens belonging to an Earl in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. Clara’s Aunt is the Earls Housekeeper and her Uncle is the Head Gardener. The stunning beauty of these well loved and tended gardens echoes off the pages of the book and transports the reader to feeling they are right there. It really is captivating.

Clara’s aunt is very stern, having rules for just about everything, insisting Clara keep busy with chores to stop her from being so curious about her surroundings. It doesn’t take long however for Clara to become interested in something peculiar, a young boy that visits the gardens at night, disappearing as quickly as he arrived.

One evening when Clara is frustated by the lack of answers and inclusion from her aunt and uncle, she ventures outside for some fresh air and ventures further into the gardens and happens upon the boy, Will. The two get talking and become friends.

Will has secrets of his own and Clara promises to keep them, excited to have a friend and companion in him. The pair compliment each other brilliantly, where Clara is reluctant and unsure Will is brave and determined. The two form a detective duo, looking for clues as to strange behaviour in the garden – there has been fruit left in specific places within the gardens, and then later on deciding to try to capture the culprit that has been stealing crops from the gardens in the act.

This involves late night stake outs, leading to even more questions that need answering when Clara’s aunt is seen wandering the grounds alone during the early hours. The multi layering of mystery within this book is really captivating for the reader, growing more and more curious and invested as the story continues.

Clara was sent to stay with her Aunt and Uncle while her parents travelled down to the south coast of England to give her Dad the respite he needs after he has returned injured from fighting for his country in the War. Claras parents seem keen to protect Clara from the devastation the War causes.

Throughout the book there are references to the ongoing War (World War One) including Clara hearing the gunfire of a regiment practicing within the Earls grounds at night, and also Clara’s secret – she has been carrying a letter for her parents from the War Office since she left them, fearing the contents will relate to her conscripted brother.

Protection is another theme flowing through the book, whether it is Clara’s aunt deciding to protect her from the truth or the gardeners nurturing the pineapples and other garden crops, and it all adds extra depth to the mysteries and challenges faced by the characters knowing that key to it all is good intent.

As one part of a mystery becomes clear there are still others waiting to be solved which really does have you curious as to the strange behaviour of so many within the book and how it will all conclude. I really enjoyed needing answers from the story right up to the very end, it really was a riveting read.

This was the perfect spring bank holiday read with its sunshine and outdoors feel. Author A M Howell has done justice to the beauty of Suffolks landscape gardens and through her research and spectacular writing has provided this generation of readers with an insight into how World War One could have impacted on even the most quiet of countryside estates.

Publication date – 13.06.19 RRP – £6.99

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