I love dual narrative stories, but The Sea Garden gives you something unique, at least for me. It’s a triple narrative, but it doesn’t alternate between the three narratives. Instead, she gives us three novellas in one book that are interconnected in some way: The Sea Garden, The Lavender Field and A Shadow Life.
The Sea Garden tells the story of Ellie Brooke, a landscape/garden designer who travels to an island called Porquerolles to restore and re-design a memorial garden. When Ellie gets there, something does not feel right, she finds her client a little eccentric and his mother is against her trying to restore the garden. He makes friends with a war historian.
The Lavender Field plays off during WWII in France. Marthe Lincel is a young blind girl who works at a perfume factory in Provence. She wasn’t always blind, but instead of being depressed, Marthe finds herself by using her senses to create extraordinary scents, while the owners of the factory are involved in the Resistance movement.
A Shadow Life is also set in WWII, but plays off in London. Iris Nightingale is an intelligence officer working for the SEO. She meets a French agent and falls in love with him, but he isn’t what he seems to be. She falls pregnant before she could tell him, but after the war, she tries to find him – with no luck. She believes him to be dead, because what other explanation is there if he is not in London and neither returned to France as expected?
The author does a great job in connecting these stories. It is done slowly and towards the end of the novel is where you will find the most surprises, which is why A Shadow Life is my favourite novella of the three. I loved the descriptions of the settings – the lush landscape of Porquerolles and the beautiful and lush lavender fields of Provence. Even her descriptions of scents bring the senses to life and I loved how she brought the meaning of scent and memories into the story. Scent has such a wonderful way of taking you back into time, remembering fond memories. I would definitely recommend this novel. If you are a fan of war-time stories, I think that this novel (or collection of novellas) is a definite must-read. For me, this is a re-read.