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on 16 October 2007
Despite an intriguing premise I was a little bit dubious as to how two sets of characters divided by a century might gel to a satisfactory conclusion. I need not have worried.

The story tracks the fortunes of Mel Pentreath, a lecturer who takes a sabbatical from her job in London to go to write and heal her emotional wounds in Cornwall.

A love story at its best. As a reader I found myself captivated by the story to find who, if anyone would win Mel's heart as she finds herself confronted with potential male suitors - both past and present. The story of Pearl, set one hundred years earlier is equally enchanting.

A fantastic read, great characterisation, truly unputdownable. One of those books that stays with you long after you finish reading it.
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on 8 July 2014
Rachel Hore has made it her speciality to write books which seek to tie together stories from the past with those of today. Writing characters who find solace in their modern lives and dramas through the actions of her characters in the past living similar lives.

In The Memory Garden this formula is used to explore the life of Mel, an art history lecturer who takes a sabbatical to write her first book. Travelling to Cornwall she rents a cottage on the estate of Merryn Hall and meets it’s handsome owner Patrick. Working together they begin to restore the gardens of the hall and in doing so discover the paintings and stories of a mysterious new artist.

The book then flashes back to the days of pre WWI and the life of servant at the hall Pearl who leads us through the story of the paintings. It was these parts of the book that I fell in love with and longed for them to be longer and more frequent. They were beautifully written and so evocative of that pre war world.

Hore has written another wonderful book which ties together the worlds of both Mel and Pearl. Using the flashback technique can be tricky though if not one of your stories holds up to the other. You can find yourself longing for more of one whilst feeling tepid about the other. Whilst I could have spent more time with Pearl this wasn’t a reflection upon the story of Mel and Patrick, my only criticism being the sight long winded ending. We seemed to take a long time to conclude Mel’s story going round one or two too many houses before reaching her end. This was a shame and was where I wishes Pearl could have been more prevalent.

It was a lovely setting for the book, on the Cornish Coast and looking at the world of artistry in the area at that time was wonderful. Hore has again proven she has the capability to enrapture and fully immerse her readers in the past. A wonderful read.
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on 2 March 2008
I read this book because i was getting bored with the usual girly reads and i'm so glad i did! This book is amazing. The descriptions are fantastic, not too long that you get bored but so accurate you can picture yourself driving through cornwall and digging the garden with them! I love cornwall so the combination of the area and the history behind the house is great. I loved the way the book goes between the past history of pearl, the hidden secrets behind their lives and the love story interlinking it all! The final chapter was enough to make me reach for the tissue box! A great read which leaves you wanting more and more! Read it cause you'll love it!
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on 2 April 2009
I would recommend this as a light, romantic read (somthing which i was not expecting when i purchsed the book). It tells great tales of the past and was read within merely a few days.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 September 2011
I had such mixed feelings about this book! It could have been a really interesting story, but never quite got there. Like most of Hore's novels, it's in part contemporary, part historical. In the contemporary parts of the book, art historian and university lecturer Melanie (I think she's meant to be a teacher at Goldsmith's College, but it might be another South London college), depressed at a split from her boyfriend Jake (a name rarely met in real life but often chosen for rakish figures in romantic fiction) heads off to Cornwall to do some research on the Lamorna School of painters (a group of artists who came in between the 19th-century Newlyn and the 20th-century St Ives schools). At the Cornish manor house of her landlord Patrick, Mel becomes intrigued by a wonderful picture of a garden - soon, she is trying to find out more about the artist, who she realizes was influenced by the Lamorna School, and also help Patrick restore the gardens of his house. The story of the artist, a lady's maid called Pearl who worked at the house in the early 20th century and longed to become a painter, is told in parallel with Mel's.

This could have been a fascinating story about art and what it was like to be a woman artist in the early 20th century, compared to now. But after some fascinating early stuff about the Lamorna School (well researched by the author) Hore drifts off into a rather wishy-washy romance between Mel and Patrick, full of stilted rather sentimental dialogue. Patrick never quite works as a hero - he comes across rather as a Mr Darcy without the energy and the interesting bits! And his hesitating between Mel and his former girlfriend Bella (a positively horrible caricature) simply seems feeble. We get far too much of Mel and Patrick's romance and not enough about Mel's art research or indeed about Cornwall - the descriptions of Cornwall are pallid compared to those in novels by (to take two examples) Helen Dunmore or Jill Paton Walsh. The historical sections of the novel certainly had some interesting moments, even if characters did tend to speak in rather awkward 'I-am-in-a-historical-novel' mode at times (something Hore managed to avoid in her third novel for the most part), but again, too much time was taken up with Pearl's romance with spineless Charles and not enough with her artistic career. I would have also liked to hear more about Pearl's eventual marriage to the much older John Boase - that was potentially a really interesting love story that was never given enough space.

This was a novel brimming with potential interesting stories which tended to get resolved all too slickly and happily. Irina, the Bosnian immigrant, was a fascinating character, but I felt her eventual fate was just a quick way of wrapping up her bit of the plot and none too plausible. Mel's relationship with her father, and her mourning for her dead mother could have also made an interesting plot strand and up to a point did, but again tended to dissolve into cliche (as in the scene when Melanie's father embraces her, declaring 'My little Melanie, always my little Melanie', which had a touch of EastEnders speak about it). And in reality, particularly in this decade, I think Melanie would have found a move to Cornwall a bit scary financially!

However, despite all these criticisms, I still enjoyed the book, would read it again, and think Hore is a good and interesting writer. I just wish she'd make more use of her many promising ideas and wonderful grasp of history and stop trying to fit into the popular women's fiction market so much.
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on 13 February 2011
I chose this Rachel Hore book as I thoroughly enjoyed The Glass Painter's Daughter. The plot and sub-plot in both stories describe contrasting lifestyles and the links between the past and the present.

Her research on the Newlyn and Lamorna artists is excellent, as are the lyrical, evocative descriptions of Cornwall. However, The Memory Garden does not flow in as interesting and captivating way as The Glass Painter's Daughter. I felt that it had perhaps been "padded out" in places, with a few too many superfluous characters and would have been improved by losing around a quarter of it's length.

The main character, Mel, is eclipsed by her counterpart in the past scenes, Pearl - who is a far stronger characterisation. Mel is annoyingly takes until the end of the book for her to make up her mind about what she really wants...but I guess, that's life! There is a recurring theme concerning men who run from emotional commitment (Mr "Right-out-here"s), and women who strive for professional and personal recognition.

I enjoyed the best - the parts of the book where Patrick (main love interest) and Mel gradually uncover the "lost garden" - echoes of Heligan here. The juxtaposition of the two storylines converge in special parts of the garden - a clever construct.

The early 1900s story has pathos, romance and tragedy. The modern story didn't quite balance this, even though it was a valiant attempt.
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The Memory Garden is set in Merryn Hall in Cornwall. Mel takes a sabbatical from lecturing to write a book about Cornish artists whilst recovering both from the death of her mother and a painful split from her long-time boyfriend Jake.

The split is fairly even between the past and the present and both stories are engaging, Pearl a daughter of uncertain parentage goes to work as a servant at Merryn Hall in 1912 taking with her a box of paints. In the present day, Mel helps Patrick, the new owner of Merryn Hall, to renovate the garden hoping to restore it to it's former glory. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that both Mel and Pearl face similar relationship problems in their quest to be happy.

I have read all Rachel Hore's previous books and although I liked this book it wasn't as good as the The Glass Painter's Daughter which was outstanding.

This is an easy read with quite a range of characters, all well developed and engaging, I have A Gathering Storm on my wish list.
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on 15 August 2014
Rachel Hore is a very good writer, she conveys past times perfectly and intermingles them with present day, always full of mysterious twists and turns while not losing sight of the main plot. I would read all she has written.
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on 11 March 2014
Iam still reading this, but am thoroughly enjoying reading it. It is a very pleasant, romantic story, written in a manner
that is relaxing and keeps the readers interest. The plot is fairly original and the style of linking the history of
two people who have both lived in a house and share an interest in art and their lives is skilful.
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on 11 January 2009
A novel filled with so many clichés and banalities and awful metaphors that it's almost funny. The story may be good or it may be bad, it doesn't matter, since the language is so flat and un-original that it would ruin any story. You wonder how anybody can write like this and get published. I kept on reading it only out of curiousity: could this really go on and on for 400 pages - and, lo and behold: it could, and I did, and I deserve a medal for my perseverance.
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