19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing - the author's 'The Whaleboat House' is much better,
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This review is from: The Savage Garden (Paperback)
I was very impressed by the author's first book 'The Whaleboat House', and ordered this one. But it's almost as if it's another - lesser - writer, or 'The Savage Garden' was really the first novel, put away in a drawer years ago, then dusted off...
If I hadn't liked the author's other book I would have given up after about 50 pages - it's very pedestrian, and you don't really get a sense of place : he's writing about one of the most beautiful parts of the world, but the descriptive passages feel like they could have been copied from guidebooks.
I find this strange because 'The Whaleboat House' is set in America's Long Island in 1947, and Mills puts you there effortlessly - the Atlantic coast setting, the period, the tensions of a place on the cusp of changing from a hardscrabble fishing community to its colonisation by rich New Yorkers, looking for a summer retreat. The characterisation is very subtle and believable, and it wasn't until after I'd finished that I found out that the author wasn't American - it's pitch-perfect.
So I was disappointed by 'The Savage Garden' - I didn't really believe in any of the characters or the love story, the 'crime' plot is paper-thin, the 'garden' plot is better, but doesn't take up much space, and the 'twist' is so-so.
It would have been better to have made the 'garden' story the main thrust and expanded it greatly, with the protagonist seeking out clues, looking in archives, teasing out the full story from centuries ago etc.
However, if you liked this, you should like 'The Whaleboat House' even more - and if you didn't like this, you'll be pleasantly surprised by 'The Whaleboat House'.