The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

the savage gardenIn December last year I came across a second hand book store just across from the beach. They stock lovely books, even vintage Dickens and Shakespeare , that left me in absolute delight. Myself and a friend spend hours browsing through the book store doing the impossible: choosing which ones to pick up and where to draw the line. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills was one of the books I bought, because I found the description interesting and also because of the lovely cover. This is also the first one I’m knocking off my list.

The story is about a young art history student, Adam Strickland who is studying towards his degree at Cambridge University, in 1958.  His mentor suggests a thesis topic to him: to go study a Renaissance garden in Tuscany, build in 1548 in memory of the owner’s wife that died at the age of 25.  The garden is at Villa Docci, property of the current owner, Signora Francesca Docci and friend of his mentor.

Even though Adam was reluctant at first (finding the villa itself a better topic for a thesis) he was drawn in by the garden with its conflicting elements –a temple, amphitheatres, a grotto and statues of mythic gods and goddesses. He is convinced, after spending a considerable amount of time in the garden that it was built to tell a story… or a confession!  He managed to make a connection to Dante’s Inferno (and Ovid) that allows him to uncover the garden’s secret. However that is NOT the only mystery he solves…

The way Mark Mills weaved this tale with art history, mythology and breathtaking/atmospheric descriptions of the garden really made me enjoy this novel SO much! Halfway through the book I was asking the book gods “please don’t let this book disappoint me in the end” and it didn’t.  I am not that familiar with art history or greek mythology, but it didn’t matter, the novel was elegantly written. I now want to read Dante’s Inferno. Should I?

If you liked novels like The Shadow of the Wind, I think you might like this one.

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  • I enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind so I’ll add this title to my list. I think one of my daughters would like it as well – she has a degree in art history.

    • The story lines are different, but to me it creates that same atmosphere when reading The Savage Garden. I hope she will like it (and you too).

  • Krysta

    I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds amazing! You got me at Renaissance garden and Dante references. If you haven’t read Dante’s Inferno yet, you definitely should, though I have to say I prefer Purgatorio and Paradiso. I would suggest a guide to all the references, though, such as Guy Raffa’s Complete Danteworlds. It’s not strictly necessary, but it really helped me along. 😀 I’m off to add this to my to-read list! Great review!

    • Thanks! I really want to read Dante’s Inferno now 🙂
      If you do have time, you should read this one. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Great review- I am definitely putting this on my list right now- I love The Shadow of the Wind-thanks!

    • Thanks! I really hope you like it. It reminds me a bit of The Shadow of the Wind and The Forgotten Garden. Like a mix of the two 🙂

  • This book sounds awesome. It sounds like the kind of novel that could really sweep me off my feet. Thank you for the great review, Melinda!

    • Thanks. I hope you will consider reading it?

  • Chantal

    Ooh, this book sounds interesting, I think you mentioned it to me before, I should make an effort to get it!

    • I think I might have mentioned another book? I only read this one last week, but yes, do read this one 🙂

  • Owwww I want a copy NOW!! * eyes to be read shelves where books are jumping us first*

  • You review has made me curious about this book! I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m off to look it up now 🙂

    • Neither have I when I saw it 🙂
      I’m glad I bought this book based on the cover and description, sometimes those are the ones that surprise us!

  • Sounds very interesting. I have to admit though, the title sounds very much familiar (besides seeing the book when I spent the weekend that one time). You a history junkie, lol.

    • I loved the book. Hahaha maybe u remember the Aussie band?

  • I haven’t read this one, but I HAVE read Dante’s Inferno and it’s really good.

    • Then I will have to read it.

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