The book is then divided into two parts, "Before" and "After, the former making up the bulk of the story which is told mainly through the voice of three characters—tweenage Pip, her young, timid mother Clare, and the beautiful, slightly older, bohemian-style Adele (mother of Willow, Fern and Catkin, wife of handsome, charming Leo).
After Clare's husband suffers a schizophrenic break that put his family in danger, she and her daughters move into a flat on a quiet street that backs onto a beautiful communal garden that is bordered by homes of all types. This garden is the hub of a little community where parents let kids run free. But from a newcomers perspective, there is also something a little "off" about it all.
With nobody ever being "brought to justice", I thought the resolution left a little something to be desired. But the more I thought on it, the more I realized that the unresolved ending really fit the tenor of the story and its reflection of real life.
It's not an uplifting or happy-go-lucky read, but if you're in the mood for a dark and moody page-turner, The Girls in the Garden fits the bill. While the subject matter isn't easy-breezy, the read itself is (I finished it over the course of a long day).
But what I chose to go along with this novel was something mentioned early on by Clare, shortly after she, Grace, and Pip moved into their new flat.
"What do you fancy?" she asked, meeting her daughters at the back door. "I can do spaghetti with peas?"
The girls dropped their park froideur as they came indoors and said yum, and yes please. Spaghetti and peas. A favorite family staple. And cheap too, which was just as well now that Clare was living off a finite sum of money.
A story like this just begs for a plate of comfort food to go with it. And from what I can tell, spaghetti with peas is pretty common in many English homes as a simple and well-loved dish. And you know what? It's going to be a staple in our kitchen now, as well. It looks unassuming, but it actually had such a great balance of flavors—a salty base of bacon fat, with noodles coated in rich cream and Parmesan (not really a sauce, more of a glaze) that are accented by sweet peas and fresh mint. Comfort food.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.