Monday 13 March 2023

The Winter Garden

Finished March 1
The Winter Garden by Nicola Cornick

This novel has an element of the paranormal and a lot of historical content. Lucy Brown is a violinist who has suddenly reached a point where she can't play. A virus has left her with long-term muscle issues that have taken away her livelihood and her joy. After treatments, she has retreated to her aunt's property in Oxfordshire. Her aunt is away on business, but Lucy's sister Cleo, who lives nearby has made the arrangements for Lucy to stay indefinitely. 
Lucy is lost, grieving for her career and the joy it brought her, but also looking ahead to figure out how she will support herself going forward. She's put her whole life into her music and doesn't know what her skills might transfer to. 
When she arrives at Gunpowder Cottage, she is tired after a long journey and looking forward to an early night, so finding someone else at the cottage is a surprise. Finn MacIntyre is a landscape gardener and archivist and has been hired by Lucy's Verity to restore the garden to its origins, some of which might reach back to the 1600s. He is living in the cottage with his dog Geoffrey, for reasons that come to light the following day. Meanwhile Lucy moves into the newly renovated barn, where Finn was supposed to staying. 
Lucy soon finds herself having visions and sensations like she is transported to a different time and seeing the property through someone else's eyes. She even has an identity for that person. As she tries to make sense of this and think about why this is happening to her, she also begins to learn more about the property's history, specifically its connection to Robert Catesby, one of the leaders of the Gunpowder Plot. 
Finn is also going through a bad time with the recent loss of his brother Charlie, a historian who was also working on the property, and he has been immersing himself in his work both as a way to honour his brother and lose himself in the work itself. 
As the two cross paths more often and begin to discover things that enlighten the work Finn is doing, they also find answers to their own troubles. 
This is a story that draws on real history, while also creating a great contemporary plot. The interspersing of diary entries from an early time bring the elements together in an interesting way. I had a hard time putting this one down. 

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