The Garden of Lost and Found: The unputdownable new family epic from the author of The Wildflowers
By Harriet Evans
A fascinating old house, wholly believable characters and a mystery at the heart combine into a sweeping novel you won’t put down’ Katie FfordeThe new novel by Sunday Times bestseller Harriet Evans will enchant her fans with this unputdownable and heart-breaking tale of a family ripped apart and the extraordinary house they called home.
Harriet writes the most delicious, epic stories from the heart since Maeve Binchy and Kate Morton. Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.
Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted TheGarden of Lost and Found, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them. One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down… When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world.
The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers.
For who would choose to destroy what they love most?
Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness. Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?Harriet Evans brings her readers home:‘Heart-stopping and wonderful’ Sophie Kinsella’Harriet Evans is my favourite author’ Goodreads’Secrets and lies in a gorgeous idyllic setting’ Prima’Reminiscent of Santa Montefiore with the emotional heart of Jojo Moyes.
You’ll frequently find yourself uttering the words: just one more page’ CultureFlyThis brilliantly written portrait of a fascinating family in crisis is an emotionally intelligent, thoughtful and engaging read.’ Daily Mail’Will make you gasp and move you to tears’ Marie Claire’I was blissfully carried away by this intelligent (she’s as good as the great Rosamunde Pilcher), classy and superbly executed family saga’ Saga’She reels you in and then you’re hooked, right to the last page’ Patricia ScanlanTweet
A long book with small type and such a hard slog to finish and extremely tiresome. It skips from the present to the past and I found myself missing out chunks of the past as I found myself drifting off when this part of the story was being told. I did manage to finish it, but I felt that the author could have concluded it so much quicker as it just seemed to drag on.
A family saga spanning many generations. The bulk of the story is based around two main timelines, focusing on Ned and Liddy who lived in Nightingale House in 1919 and Juliet, their great-granddaughter, who inherits the house in the present day. Ned was a world famous painter who, days before his sudden death burns his most famous painting for no apparent reason. Generations later, Juliet, an art historian, is determined to find out why.
The common thread running through the book is Nightingale House and as such there is some structure to it and a carefully planned plot. Some of the individual family stories are interesting but the story of Liddy and her siblings’ childhood was a wonderful piece of writing which was both chilling and memorable. There are the makings of a really good book in there somewhere but unfortunately, in my view the overall execution was not a great success.
The flaws can be easily summed up: too many characters and too many words. The different generations of the family are very hard to disentangle initially and trying to work out who is related to who is a bit of a logistical nightmare. Also, there were very few characters who really stood out for me but this may be purely a function of the size of the cast list. However, this is a minor problem compared to the second issue. The book is huge – nearly 600 pages of very small print. A book of this size needs to be gripping and I’m afraid it plodded rather than gripped. This is a family saga of epic proportions but, as we all know, size isn’t everything and in this case I think smaller would undoubtedly have been better. It was just far too long and, as a result, was boring, slow and just not very memorable. After about the first 100 pages I’d virtually lost the will to live and found myself looking for excuses not to read any more. In fact, I very nearly gave up, something I rarely do but I decided to persevere and, to be fair, it did improve marginally. This was largely because the initial confusion over who was who began to resolve itself as I came to know the characters. However, it never gained enough momentum or generated enough interest for me to really care and I was very relieved to finish it. I’m really sorry that I didn’t enjoy it and I feel almost guilty because I’m sure a lot of work went into writing the book, but it just wasn’t for me.
This is the first Harriet Evans book I have read and I’m afraid it may be the last, especially if this is her typical writing style.
This book alternates between two different timelines, written in very different styles. The one timeline was written in the style of a historical romance, and the modern one felt more like 'chick lit'. I really struggled with this. The story felt overlong and disjointed, and I really struggled to finish the book. Not my cup of tea, sorry.
I loved this book. Centred on a house and its inhabitants over the years this rich tale is a joy. It reminded me of Kate Morton in style. It is a gentle story with some almost unbearable parts; long, but well worth the read.