Book Blurb :
William Ashton, retained as a gardener by Edward Hillier, discovers his new master to be a detached and driven man. Over the years, as travail and tragedy bring them closer together, he understands that they have more in common than he first realised, but the affection they feel for one another will be sorely tested by boundaries both of class and of rigid Victorian morality. Like the private garden behind the high walls their love must flourish only in the strictest secrecy – or else it will not do so at all.
If you’re looking for a “breeches ripper” you’ll be very disappointed, this book is simply not for you; not that I don’t like a good one myself, I do! But from time to time I relish losing myself in such a book as this one…
Two young men had to make a decision early in their lives but their choices were drastically different. For one of them, it was to take a risk and have the courage to simply be and accept who he was but having to dissimulate his proclivity for the rest of his life. For the other one, it was to avoid questioning himself about unusual and disturbing feelings and opt to bury them the deepest possible and then follow the only acceptable path for a young gentleman living in the Victorian era: marriage …
This is a slow paced and beautiful story full of charm, written with finesse and patience where nothing is rushed. Each feeling and emotion have time to take root, grow and then finally bloom. This narrative spans three years and it’s simply about life and its unavoidable dramas, but it’s neither overly melodramatic nor boring. F.M. Parkinson always seems to be able to keep it in check in a very subtle, subdued and clever manner that stays very consistent and always believable.
Everything begins when William Ashton joins Edward Hillier’s staff as a gardener. Hillier knows next to nothing about the man who answers his advertisement, the decision to hire him is impulsive and it won’t be the last when it comes to Ashton. The second one is to give him the key to the walled garden that has a very special place in Hillier’s heart. Very quickly trust and friendship grows between them, despite the difference in their station. For Ashton, this develops into something unexpected and his life becomes a constant struggle, more so with each day that passes in Hillier’s presence. But it will take a good measure of time and patience, tenacity and love to breach the wall of restrain Hillier has built around him over the years.
This novel contains a very interesting character study; Ashton and Hillier are poles apart, mostly because of the path they chose but also because their personality couldn’t be more dissimilar. In my opinion their behavior seems to mirror perfectly the rules and characteristics of that time. Each theme that is evoked in this book seems to have been meticulously studied and everything seems perfectly accurate particularly with regard to homosexuality. Henri Hillier is the perfect and sad example of repressed emotions up to a point of complete denial as if he had never felt anything of that kind … ever.
I love Ms. Parkinson’s unusual style of writing that is, in itself, a very special character to this novel. The writing made me think about the passing of the seasons, slowly but surely … The walled garden is a very important element of the book, both physically and symbolically. It’s, in fact, as much a protagonist as William Ashton and Edward Hillier are. It plays a very important role because it’s where everything actually begins. The author has a way of describing this garden and nature in general that is so soothing, relaxing and peaceful. More than once, when reading her descriptions and my imagination doing the rest, it was as if I was admiring one of these wonderful British romantic paintings of the 19th century … what an extraordinary feeling!
The undeniable rift which exists between the two protagonists that seems so insurmountable at first makes, in my opinion, this story even more interesting to read.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading F.M. Parkinson first novel. I can only highly recommend it and I give five stars. She’s an author I’ll definitely be watching out for in the future.
Pubisher : Manifold Press
Source : Purchased
Released : May 1st 2012