Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz

The Lost Garden
By Katharine Swartz
Lion Fiction, 2015

Two stories set a century apart intertwine in Katharine Swatrz's "The Lost Garden," the second book in her Tales from Goswell series. In the present, Marin Ellis assumes guardianship of her younger half-sister, Rebecca after the death of their father and Rebecca's mother. Unsure what direction to take in her own life, Marin yields to Rebecca's plea to give them a fresh start by purchasing Bower House, a former vicarage in England's West Cumberland. A locked door to an apparent lost garden intrigues the sisters and they are enveloped by its history.

Meanwhile, the garden's origins and the post-World-War-I lives of the home's previous inhabitants, Eleanor Sanderson, the vicar's daughter and her sister, Katherine unfold as men return from battle and people try to resume their lives. The two tales skillfully are shared intermittently with every other chapter so that the stories unfold simultaneously, but without the jarring that sometimes can occur when the timeline shifts in novels. We also don't get a chance to forget what is happening in one story before moving on to the second.

Similarities surface in the stories as we see how the sisters learn to relate to each other and to the other people in their lives. Marin and Eleanor also have father/daughter issues to work through as well as how to work through grief. And of course there is some romance. The stories are fairly predictable, but in a pleasant way. I hadn't read the first book -- this sequel stands on its own -- but I had been drawn to the book because of its "secret garden" plot.  I wasn't disappointed. The book impressed me with its well written dialogue, often using vernacular, and Swartz's strong descriptive style with metaphor that puts us in the setting and gives clear understanding of what the characters are experiencing.

A nice example:
"Carefully she lifted her skirt and moved through the garden. She had never walked the full length of the place, and now she studied the old slate path that had been buried under the soil and which Jack had scraped clean. He'd shown her the path when he'd first cleared it . . . and Elanor had studied them scrupulously, simply to have a moment alone with Jack."

Touches of faith add to the characters, but are not overbearing. Makes me want to go read the first novel, The Vicar's Wife, also dual stories separated by decades.
-- Lauren Yarger

A copy of the book was provided free by the publisher at my request.


Unknown said...

Big fan of Katharine Swartz, she doesn't make religion explicit but gives a great sense of Christian community living by depicting realistic characters who happen to be Christians.

Unknown said...

Big fan of Katharine Swartz, she doesn't make religion explicit but gives a great depiction of Christian community living by creating realistic likable characters that happen to be Christian.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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