Lauren Molyneux curls up with a good book to review the latest best seller
The Gardener’s Wife
Emma Holt’s sons have been conscripted and sent to the front in France. In an effort to distract herself from the troubles she knows they must be facing, she turns her attentions to her loving husband, Jack, her work for the local Quaker school, and a new role as assistant station manager, calling in and signalling out the trains that carry more and more young men to war.
Overworked and fatigued with worry for her boys, she can’t help but find herself heavily reliant on her relationship with the school’s Headmaster, Philip Manners. Unhappily married to the Bishop’s daughter, Philip knows he has long harboured feelings for Emma in return, admiring her intelligence, strength and empathy. Waking daily with conflicted feelings about the woman he loves, and the respectable man she’s married to, whilst remaining committed to teaching his students the pacifist way in the hope that they’ll be able to resist the call to war and all the glory it holds, he looks to God for guidance and finds solace in silent reflection, aware of the pain it would cause if he were to act upon his desires.
As the tensions overseas begin to grow, the atmosphere in the community of Shadworth becomes increasingly melancholic. Met with dark news each morning, townspeople are losing their sons, brothers and fathers in a war which, it seems, will never end. Carrying the heavy weight of having three sons out fighting on the front, Emma finds herself torn between the loyalty she has for her husband and the love she has felt, but kept hidden, for Philip, drawn ever closer to his gentle nature and kind soul.
When the worst happens overseas and Emma’s world is shaken, Philip can’t help but rush to comfort her. And as bad news continues to flood in, it’s only a matter of time before the dangerous love they share becomes known to the world.
Written with elegance and beautiful attention to detail, The Gardener’s Wife is a tale which champions the strength brought by love in a time of war, sharing with us the lives and inner struggles of the Holt family – both those at home, and those who are facing the horrors of war in France. Told with emotion, it is a story about honour, family, commitment, loss, and faith, which succeeds in enveloping readers and tugging at our heart strings. Powerful in its messages which preach tolerance and the value of community, while shedding light on the futility of war, The Gardener’s Wife is both poetic and picturesque, drawing upon a dark period of history to emphasise the tenacity of the human spirit, and the difficulties that can be overcome when we have love in our hearts.