16 Mar The Walled Garden by Sarah Hardy
A moving story of the hurts war can inflict on a community
I’ve read plenty wartime books where the action takes us to the battlefields of France or Burma or Russia, or concentrates on the experience of those on the homefront, but this story is different. While it’s driven by the characters’ experience of war, it picks up and explores the aftermath of war, and the emotional scars it inflicts, from which no-one is immune.
It’s 1946 and the men of Oakbourne have returned from war – at least those that survived have – each bearing the physical and mental scars of six years of bloody battle.
At Oakbourne Hall, Sir Stephen Rayne broods on his part in the conflict, unable to share the secret of the things he has seen and done with his patient but bewildered wife Alice.
At the doctor’s home, Jane Downes tries to keep the peace between her husband Jonathan and their three children. He’s scarred and angered by his experiences as a prisoner of war, they’re still traumatised by the bombing of their home in the London Blitz.
At the vicarage, gentle George Ivens offers what solace he can to his parishioners. But even he can’t heal the tortured minds of Sir Stephen and Dr Downes.
Will time, and the love of their wives, do their healing work?
This was a beautiful story of the strength and resilience of ordinary people who have had to face extraordinary circumstances.
The reader empathises so much with all of them, but Alice is the ultimate heroine of the piece. She longs for the normality and contentment of the pre-war years, and tries to recreate them in the old walled garden that has been left to go to rack and ruin.
It’s a metaphor for so many ruined lives, and as she pulls out nettles with her bare hands, we’re reminded that healing and restoration can’t happen unless we face up to the pain.
Amongst all the sorrow are moments of joy, as George Ivens’ rich voice soars to the church’s vaulted ceiling, as he and Alice discover a shared love of music, as Dr Downe’s takes up his beloved chess again, as the annual village cricket match resumes.
This book may be about the aftermath of the cruelty mankind is capable of, but there is so much love in the story – family love, forbidden love, the love of the land everyone fought so hard for, that it uplifts, inspires and warms the reader’s heart with the reminder that goodness will always triumph over evil.
The Walled Garden by Sarah Hardy is published by Manilla Press in hardback and ebook
About the Author
Sarah Hardy has lived for the last 10 years on the Suffolk coast which is where her novel is set. Before that she lived in London, Dublin and the Hebrides. She has worked on national magazines and newspapers. The Walled Garden is her debut novel.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Manilla Press for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster
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