The Rose Garden
By Tracy Rees
Published by Pan
What it’s about?
1895. Hampstead, London.
Olive Westallen lives a privileged, if rather lonely, life in her family’s grand Hampstead home. But she has radical plans for the future of her family – plans that will shock the high-society world she inhabits.
For her new neighbour, twelve-year-old Ottilie Finch, London is an exciting playground to explore. Her family have recently arrived from Durham, under a cloud of scandal that Otty is blissfully unaware of. The only shadow over her days is her mother’s mysterious illness, which keeps her to her room.
When Mabs is offered the chance to become Mrs Finch’s companion, it saves her from a desperate life on the canals. Little does she know that all is not as picture-perfect as it seems. Mabs is about to become tangled in the secrets that chased the Finches from their last home, and trapped in an
impossible dilemma . . .
What I think:
This is such a compelling novel, I was utterly engrossed by the end of the first chapter.
The Rose Garden is the story of three different women who forge an unlikely friendship that crosses age and social class.
Mab Daley is such a wonderful character. Determined to support her familynand help her younger siblings out of the London slums, she is feisty and principled, thoughtful and loving. She is prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure that the children can stay together after the death if her mother and her fathers descent into alcoholism and depression. Mab dresses as a boy and works on the docks doing physical and dangerous work.
She cannot believe her luck when she is offered the position of companion to Abigail Finch, a beautiful but troubled woman.
As Mrs Finch persistently refuses Mab’s help she finds herself spending time with Ottilie Finch. 12 years old and fiercely independent, Otty has been exploring Hampstead and considering her education.
On her travels she meets Olive Westallen a wealthy spinster who lives on her terms. Her father’s reputation and wealth protect her from the harsh realities of life for women at the time. She is determined to improve life for the poor and decides to adopt an orphaned girl.
It becomes increasingly clear that there are dark secrets behind the Finch doors. Why did they leave Durham? What exactly is wrong with Mrs Finch? Is the charming and ambitious Mr Finch all he seems.
The different aspects of the narrative are woven together seamlessly to a gripping conclusion.
Rees’ descriptions of London slums are shockingly evocative and a stark reminder of the abject poverty of Victorian England. This is contrasted with the wealth and luxury Polaris House and the families if Hampstead Heath.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s full of heartwarming female friendships that triumph over adversity and a reminder than wealth does not always bring happiness.
About the author:
Tracy Rees was the first winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. She has also won the Love Stories Best Historical Read award
and been shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year.
A Cambridge graduate, Tracy had a successful career in non-fiction publishing before retraining for a second career
practising and teaching humanistic counselling. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant and workshop leader.
Tracy divides her time between the Gower Peninsula of South Wales and London.
Thank you to Pan for my gifted copy of The Rose Garden and to Anne Cater from Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me to join this wonderful blog tour.