The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley
This is a deeply satisfying book, with a garden to cut back and transform, a secret or two, and some threats to contend with. It is laced with Ashley’s usual brand of humour, attention to detail and features a distinctive cat. This novel is a faithful and realistic story of a young woman who has to overcome a difficult past and is trying to rebuild her life in a garden that is in desperate need of rescue. It is lively, funny and anyone with the slightest interest in gardening – even as an observer- will find much to enjoy in this story of Marnie getting to grips with an overgrown rose garden. The element of romance is well introduced by the character of Ned, an old friend who has also endured a damaging relationship and is wary of any involvement with someone whose exit from gardening in the UK was much discussed. The setting in this book is typically charming, a large garden attached to a country house, and a bonus in terms of a waterfall considered to be a tourist attraction, if only because of the ambiguous appearances at various times of a winged creature. This is a book which includes some of the challenges of life, both contemporary and in the past, and is a deeply satisfying read.
At the beginning of the novel Marnie loses her mother who has dominated her life to this point, having been rejected by her own family. The main novel is about the adult Marnie, who has spent the previous few years in France working on refurbishing chateaux gardens. She had once had a promising career in British heritage gardens, but that was ruined by her controlling ex husband Mike, who had sent an inflammatory resignation email to her employers. During their brief time together he had systematically controlled her life, and as her adoptive family were in France, nearly succeeded in cutting her off from all support. Having escaped to France, Marnie has returned to Britain having found a strange live-in gardener job near her adopted sister Treena. She has heard of Jericho’s End from her mother, but she is not prepared for the discoveries she makes when she arrives, including a family run ice cream cafe, a memorable site on which to work, and the well known gardener Ned. Not that everything is straightforward, as she discovers that the people she works for are friendly and welcoming, including a rescue cat , Casper, who moves into her small flat. She soon learns something about the history of the village, and realises that a warning from her mother may finally make sense. The brooding figure of Ned also worries her, as he is wary of anyone who may cause him problems as he battles to rescue his garden as a tourist attraction. It becomes obvious that Marnie will have to take on more than overgrown roses as she tries to build a new life in the shadow of the past.
This is a lovely read as Marnie cuts back the roses and plants that cover a very special garden, and helps to make a visitor attraction out of a wilderness. By including characters from previous novels, Ashley has succeeded in rooting this novel firmly in her wonderful world of communities that help a woman to survive and thrive. The humour which emerges from the dialogue is natural and unforced, always enjoyable and adding a definite bonus to the novel. Not that this is a completely light read; the controlling relationship that is in the background is brilliantly described as abuse that is not necessarily physical but still life changing. Overall I recommend this novel as an escapist joy with a firm base in contemporary life.