The Gardener by Prue Leith

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The Gardener by Prue Leith

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A deeply satisfying read about a middle-aged woman who takes on a neglected garden in Oxfordshire and about the garden she finds and saves. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 363 Date: July 2007
Publisher: Transita
ISBN: 978-1905175345

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After a painful divorce Lotte decides on a complete change of career. Being an architect is no longer satisfying so she studies to become a gardener and finds herself - in her forties and with three young children to care for - head-gardener at Maddon Park. The house and garden have quite a history, having originally been a Priory, but now they're owned by Brody Keegan, a rough-diamond millionaire and Amber, his spoilt young supermodel wife. Brody knows nothing about gardens apart from the fact that he likes bright orange roses and that money can bring about all sorts of fast changes. He and Lotte have one thing in common though - they're both determined to have their own way over the garden.

I did enjoy this book. I started reading it early one evening and finished it with a very contented sigh in the early hours of the following morning. I was behind Lotte straight away. She's no glamorous young heroine, but a middle-aged woman still suffering from her husband's defection and desperate to do her best for her children. She wants to do a good job and it's not long before Maddon Park becomes an obsession with her, but the one thing that she doesn't want is any sort of emotional entanglement.

Prue Leith is clever though. Before she even introduced me to Lotte she handed my heart over to a garden. Lotte, you see, is only the latest in a long line of gardeners who have tended to Maddon Park. Some have been better than others and one or two have been memorable but recently the Park has fallen into disrepair. Tree stumps line the drive and recent plantings have owed much to the legacy of Council Parks Departments. Lotte is determined to gently remove the worst excesses and bring the original garden back to glowing life. Brody and Amber are determined to rip it out and do a makeover.

Brody is Irish and rough with it. He's younger than Lotte and he's married. His tastes in everything are the very opposite of Lotte's, so she's not going to be attracted to him, is she? Of course, she isn't. Not at all. Yes, she is. Then there's her growing friendship with archivist Peter Childersley, who seems to have a magic way with her children despite his established bachelor status. Even the teenage Annie can be won round by him. What is Lotte to do?

What happened surprised me. I really wasn't expecting it to work out that way at all, but it is so perfectly right. Not everyone acts with honour and sometimes they act downright stupidly. It's just like real life, actually. I'm not going to tell you any more because I've no intention of spoiling it for you. I'll just say that it's very, very satisfying and rather unusual.

I suspect that this book is going to appeal to women a lot more than to men, but it's a big step up from chick-lit. It's not a light and mindless read for the beach, but if you're looking for a holiday read that will demand a little of your brain but repay you many times then I think it would be hard to find better. I learned quite a bit about gardening, thought quite a lot about how gardens evolve and about how relationships need more than just a common ground and sexual attraction to really make them work. I thought about love, being 'in love' and lust. I also thought that Prue Leith had been wasted in the kitchen all those years!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If this type of book appeals to you, Bookbag can recommend Susan Kurosawa's Coronation Talkies, set in India in the late nineteen-thirties or The Birth House by Ami McKay. You might also enjoy Another Home, Another Love by Gwen Kirkwood.

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Buy The Gardener by Prue Leith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Gardener by Prue Leith at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Gardener by Prue Leith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Gardener by Prue Leith at


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