Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Winter Garden

The Winter Garden
  The Winter Garden
Author:  Nicola Cornick
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2022. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1525811460 / 978-1525811463

Rating:   ★★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "They awoke that morning to snow."

Favorite Quote:  "It cannot always be a fight. Sometimes we must be content to bide a little and wait for our time to come around again."

As with Nicola Cornick's other books, The Winter Garden is a story of multiple time periods and the women of the time struggling, fighting, and making their own way. In the present day, Lucy has lost her career and her way of life to a disease. She is at a crossroads because everything she worked for her whole life and everything she dreamed of is gone. She retreats to her aunt's home in Oxfordshire to rest and recover physically and emotionally. The home has its own history, and a project is underway to restore and recover part of that history - a garden lost to time.

The history of the past is of the 1600s. The Catholics of the region felt persecuted by the Protestant kings and queens. There was religious strife which led to political strife. "Matters of religion were a thorny thicket for a man - or woman - to discuss with their fellows. The past fifty years had made us wary. Wars had been waged, men of conscience killed, families such as ours split apart, imprisoned, robbed of our fortunes." Robert Catesby was a Catholic landowner and a ringleader of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed plan to blow up the King and other nobleman on the opening day of Parliament. The holiday called Guy Fawkes (another of conspirators) Night or Bonfire Night still celebrates the failure of this plot.

In the story, Lucy's aunt's home once belonged to Robert Catesby. For the book, the main character of the past is Robert Catesby's mother although the garden is question was actually created at the request of his Protestant wife. Robert Catesby's wife plays a major role in the book, and yet it is not her story that is told. 

The book proceeds somewhat like an archeological dig with a visiting ghost and visions and some of romance added. As Lucy experiences visions of the past and gets involved in the restoration project, her visions and discovery lead to that layers of the story of the past. The story of the present is one of healing; the story of the past is one of destruction. The anchor of the book is very much Lucy's story of grief and healing. The romance in the book is a sweet one and enough in the background to allow the story to remain focused on the history and its ramifications into the present.

This book, yet again, does what I love about historical fiction. It teaches me something new in history. I read the story and am off to search nonfiction sources for the actual history. I have, of course, heard of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night. However, I had never before heard of Robert Catesby and his role in this history. The fact that the fiction is from the perspective of the women leaves me wondering of the actual women of this history and if anything is written of their roles and contributions.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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