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Book Review: The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

13 Jun

The Girl in the GardenGenre: Literary fiction

Publisher: Hachette Book Group (Grand Central)

Pub date:15 June 2011

Source:Publisher via NetGalley

When I first read the synopsis for this book, it sounded like a dark version of the Secret Garden with some magical elements thrown in. I was very taken with that book when I was a kid and was drawn to The Girl in the Garden. But this was not a completely satisfying read.

Synopsis (from NetGalley)

The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.

Review

Rakhee is engaged but before she can get married, there are certain things in her life that need to be resolved. She leaves a letter for a fiance explaining this and goes to India to sort it all out. Almost the entire story is told through this letter.

This story has some very familiar themes – Secret Garden, The Book of Tomorrow which I just read. And there is no denying the ring of some Indian movies of the ’80s and ’90s. Strange family members, secrets, a garden that the kids are not allowed to go into.

While the narrator is Rakhee the child, the character of the mother is what drives this story. She is an obviously troubled woman who has a secret that her daughter doesn’t know about. Her secrets are harmful, not just to her but to those around her as well. Her marriage is not in the best shape and we can see from the child’s point of view that things are shaky.

What this book does well is perhaps address a nostalgia for the good old times of childhood. The summer vacation described here brought back very happy memories of summer vacations at grandparents house – with the big garden and endless games I played with my sister and my cousins.

But where it doesn’t quite hit the right notes is in the rather predictable plot.  The secret is pretty easy to guess right at the beginning and I could also more or less foresee the twists the story would take.

While I can’t say I loved this book, I definitely didn’t hate it. I am curious to see what Kamala Nair comes up with next. I feel that there is potential for a great story that she can tell with her writing.

Verdict

Read for a familiar story in a familiar setting (if you are from India). Or read for a warm story of love and forgiveness.

Rating: 3.5*

*See my Rating policy

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