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The French Gardener
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I've never read one of Santa Montefiore's books before, but I was drawn to this one as the summary sounded a little bit magical and combined another one of my favourite things with romance- gardening. I'm happy to confirm that I actually really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more of her novels in future. This was a nice, easy read and I think it would make a great story to settle down with on holiday- none too taxing but with a wonderful plot that keeps you entertained.

A brief summary of the story: when Miranda Claybourne and her husband David acquire the huge Hartington House, they're expecting things to be idyllic with their new start in the country- only Miranda is lonely and David still has one foot firmly in his London life. The gardens in the beautiful old house are neglected, so when Jean-Paul, a French gardener arrives on her doorstop it seems only fitting that he should try and bring the garden back to life- only transforming gardens isn't the only thing it seems the mysterious Frenchman is good at....

What a superb story- I really loved it! The plot contains excellent scene setting and well-developed characters as it switches between the two eras portrayed within it, though not all characters are particularly likeable. I most certainly didn't warm to Miranda's arrogant husband David or her brattish son Gus, or even find Miranda herself that likeable at first. I did however think her daughter Storm was a real cutie and some of the villagers were just charming- particularly gay hairdresser Troy and gift shop owner Henrietta, as well as neighbour Jeremy. Characters make or break a story and for me the majority of the ones in this book were a hit- particularly the secondary ones. The village life and ambiance too was incredibly well depicted and as a reader you can imagine yourself in Hartington- wandering into surly Cate's cake shop for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, or strolling through the Claybourne's incredible cottage garden or wildflower meadow. I was expecting a book about the upper classes and that's certainly what I got here (you also don't have to enjoy gardening to appreciate this book by the way)!

This book rather puts me in mind of the writing style by Jo Jo Moyes with its mix of poignancy, humour and romance- so if you're a fan of hers then I think you'd definitely enjoy this book, and vice-versa. Similarly, I'd also recommend Erica James Novels too. Based on this book my personal recommendations for other novels with gardening and romance are:

Erica James- "Gardens of Delight"
Jo-Jo Moyes- "Night Music"
Annie Sanders- "Goodbye Jimmy-Choo"

Enjoy!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2008
I love all of Santa Montefiore's books, but this one just hits all the right spots and had me reading into the early hours of the morning because I had to know what happened in the end! It's based in a beautiful country house in Gloucestershire where Miranda and her husband David move out from London. Their marriage begins to unravel as they spend so much time apart - and Miranda finds it hard settling into rural life from the glamorous one she had in the city. The children don't know how to play in the countryside having been brought up with telly and computer games. Then Jean-Paul arrives, a ravishing Frenchman who has come over from France in search of the woman he once loved, who used to live in the house that Miranda lives in. His wisdom and infectious love of the gardens have a magic effect on Miranda and her family, uniting them all and teaching them the simple joys of nature. What is lovely about this book is the leap back in time, about 20 years before when Jean-Paul was a younger man. The book is divided into the seasons and at the top of each chapter is a phrase about the garden. I wondered about those at the beginning, not sure whose observations they were, but then it was clear in the end and very moving - as is the poem on the last page. This is a beautifully written book, and the characters are compelling, especially Ava who I feel i now know. It's romantic but not in a soppy way, and wonderful escapism. I'm longing for the next one. I also feel that few books fill me up spiritually, and this one does. It gave me a warm feeling about life and death and love surviving death. I would recommend it to anyone who loves well written, but very readable novels about love.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
If you read only one book this year then make it this one.Having followed the author from her first book, she has come of age with this one.The characters are given attractive albeit flawed attributes which encourages the reader to identify with their joys and disappointments.The desciptions of the gardens and the enviroment do not in my opinion detract from the story but add to it, a reflection of the growth and eventual maturing of the main characters Ava and Jean Paul as well as the subsequent family.Her use of periferral characters to further illustrate the healing power of love is also clever.This sounds like a cheesy book but don't be fooled, it has a poignancy which will remain with you long after you have finished turning the last page.A thoroughly enjoyable read !
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2009
This book grabbed me from the first page - and I am not even interested in gardening. It is a beautifully well-crafted story and each page leaves you hungry for the next. Can't wait for her next book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2008
Having read all of Santa's books so far, this was a great disappointment. With this book she has moved into the "average romance" category, sadly. Her other books transfer you to the setting, where one can sense, smell and almost touch. The French Gardener is so predictable and has an over used story line. The characters are shallow, the setting boring.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2009
This book was wonderful and I could not put it down. As a gardener, I felt as though I was walking the garden with them and seeing it all. The romance of it made it perfect
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2009
Have just finished reading "The French Gardener" couldn't put it down.I have read all of Santa Montefiore's books and each one is superb a completely different theme each time, I look forward to the next one!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2009
I had read the Butterfly Box and had enjoyed it very much I was therefore looking forward to another of SM's novels. This one I am afraid fell short for me. The narrative was very overwritten in places, and there were patches of repetitive description of the wretched garden and I guessed the plot after the first few pages. Still an easy read for a sunbed on holiday, not hard to digest and it conjures up an English landscape if your holiday is a disaster and you want to go home!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2011
It is only two months since I last read and reviewed a book by this author but this one from the blurb on the back cover sounded just perfect for spending a few lazy summer afternoons reading. It was perfect so Santa Montefiore gets to feature here again. These are the words that jumped out at me from the back cover `A neglected garden. A cottage that holds a secret. A mysterious Frenchman, (handsome naturally). A family in need of some love. These elements are entwined in this heart warming novel that reviewers consistently compare to Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher.'
I have in fact made this very same comparison myself, in my review of The Swallow and the Hummingbird, when I recommended her writing to all lovers of romantic fiction, especially fans of Rosamunde Pilcher.

The French Gardener is a very romantic story, but not in a sickly sweet way, that found me with tears in my eyes a few times. Maybe I have been feeling a little too sentimental recently but I really enjoyed the way this story was told. The book is divided into the four seasons and within each section there are told the stories of the two families, linked past and present by The French Gardener himself. In modern times we have David and Miranda Claybourne moving out of London and buying Hartington House a country estate. It is not the idyllic lifestyle that Miranda may have imagined partly because her husband is hardly ever there, finds she is lonely. I found her husband to be arrogant and intensely annoying actually for most of the novel! The gardens have been neglected so when a Jean Paul a Frenchman turns up offering to help restore the place to its former beauty Miranda jumps to accept his offer. Little does she know when she takes him on that he has a connection with the garden and the previous residents Phillip and Ava Lightly from nearly thirty years ago. Both stories centre around Hartington House, its garden and the village it is part of. Anyone who has experienced village life for themselves and or loves gardening will appreciate how well Santa Montefiore has captured the essence of the characters and their surroundings. A story that truly captures the struggle to balance love and duty.

Personally I am really looking forward to reading more of her novels and am disappointed that at the moment there are no more sitting on our bookshelves waiting for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2010
This was my first read of one of Santa Montefiore's books and I was not disappointed one bit.

I bought the book some time ago but it sat in my bedroom for months before I picked it up and actually began to read... As is usual with me, it took me a few chapters to get into it but after that... Boy, was I blown away!

You will laugh, you will cry, you will become part of their world.

As the story unfolded I was gripped, couldn't put the book down and was disappointed when the journey was over.

I would definately recommend this book to anyone who needs a real good read and wants to be absorbed into the story.
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