March 05, 2012

The White Garden - Stephanie Barron

The White Garden is a book I have had on my shelf for a while - I have made an attempt on getting through it before but failed miserably. I did make it to the end on this reading but I can't say that it left me satisfied unfortunately.
Virginia Woolf is one of my favourite authors and as such I will devour almost anything that has a slight reference to her. A couple of years ago I read Vanessa and Virginia, a fictional account of the relationship between Virginia and her sister, and absolutely loved it - I only wish The White Garden could have been more like this interpretation of Woolf's world.
The White Garden is set in modern day when an American garden designer, Jo Bellamy, travels to the UK to examine the White Garden created by Woolf's friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West at her family home, Sissinghurst Castle. The premise is that Jo is to gain inspiration from the White Garden in order to be able to replicate the design for a wealthy client when she returns home (I found the romantic sub-plot between Jo and this client to be absolutely ludicrous). Jo has an ulterior motive for her trip - she is wanting to learn more about her recently deceased grandfather who grew up in the area around Sissinghurst Castle before emigrating to the USA after World War 2. From these bones of plot the connection to the life of Virginia Woolf is made whereby the author has imagined a different ending for Woolf and a mystery surrounding her death - that of course involves Jo's grandfather in some way.
I do not consider myself a literary purist at all - I don't have a problem with modern day writers taking a fictional idea and applying it to the life of a well know figure or event - some of the best books I have read have been written in this way - I only ask that they write them well! I think my main problem with this book was that I found it to be a little tacky - the storyline created by the author just didn't seem to ring true in any way - it was not believable for me at all. As I said previously, I did make it to the end of The White Garden but not out of any connection to the story or the characters - I think I just wanted to have it over and done with!


Nadia said...

What a disappointment! I had seen this book around before and had considered giving it a go - after reading your post, I'm sure glad I didn't. It sounds rather ridiculous the way the author is trying to incorporation Woolf into her book - definitely not something I'll be picking up anytime ever. Thanks for the honest review!

Vintage Reading said...

Love the cover! Sounds a big let-down though, what a shame.

Karen said...

Hi Nadia - I hope it wasn't a book that you might have liked and I have turned you away! I think I have steered you in the right direction though...

Hi Vintage Reading - I totally agree - love the cover! Pity about the content!

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