The Lavender Garden is a dual time narrative that plays off in wartime France and tells the stories of two women, namely Emilie de la Martinières and Constance Carruthers. After the death of her mother in 1998, Emilie is the only living member of the aristocratic de la Martinières family. She inherits the family fortune, including their Paris house and a beautiful château in the south of France, but unfortunately for Emilie, her mother also left her with debt. She decides to sell the Paris house and use the money to restore the grandeur of the old château.
One day she meets the man she is to be married to, an art dealer called Sebastian. During their first conversation she learns that there is a connection between Sebastian’s grandmother and her family, but what exactly is this connection? She asked the man who has lived and worked for her family, Jacques, about Sebastian’s grandmother, Constance. With this she learns about her father’s involvement with the French resistance during the war, that he was a hero, but she also learns more about her aunt, Sophia, who her father, Eduoard, never spoke about… and why…
1944 – Constance, also called Connie, was a 25 year old woman living in London who was sent to France as an SOE agent. Upon her arrival in Paris, she finds herself living with Emilie’s father and his sister, Sophia, after she ended up on their doorstep. She never got to do what she was trained for, but had to protect Eduoard and keep his involvement with the French Resistance a secret. He entertained German officers to extort information from them. During Jacques retelling of the past, we learn the secrets of the de la Martinières family. We learn the connection between the two families, apart from the fact that Connie stayed there. In his story, we learn that although Connie was spared the danger her colleagues was submitted to, she had her own horrific experience. Although not explicitly described, it was an incident that shocked, but something that I imagined definitely happened during that time. I felt sorry for her and of course I delighted in the fact that later on, she did get her revenge.
The Lavender Garden is the first novel I’ve read by Lucinda Riley and I can without a doubt say that I am now a fan! I love dual time narratives in historical fiction, and this one did not disappoint. The two stories are well blended together, with information and shocking family secrets slowly revealed throughout the novel. I loved both Connie and Emilie’s story. There are some revelations which I could foresee coming, such as Sebastian not being what he seems, which Emilie soon learns after they got married. There is something about Sebastian that didn’t sit right with me from his very first appearance in the novel. My favourite character has to be Emilie, I could completely understand her confusion and insecurity, but I did love almost all the characters in the book for various reasons: Constance’s bravery and determination, Eduoard’s passion and loyalty for his country and then Jacques, who is the embodiment of a loyal and good friend.
This is a great tale of love, loss, pain and bravery. I loved this novel and I would recommend that you read it!