The plot revolves around the missing time between when Virginia Woolf was thought to have drowned herself and when her body was found. The author presents another possibility--that Virginia Woolf ran away to her friend Vita Sackville-West house. The White garden was part of Vita's garden. The plot is a bit difficult and requires some knowledge of the Bloomsbury group and the four British academics ( connected to the group) who were spies for the Soviets during and after WWII. The present day part of the plot is much more like a detective novel.
This book was a suggestion from a librarian friend. In a similar style of pov jumping as Da vinci code, this is a mystery history story of a lost American, a struggling Briton & their scrappy Attempts to make sense of puzzles, assumptions, and lies regarding the last month of Virginia Woolf's life and death. Though slower paced initially, the second half of the book flies too quickly. Beautiful, sad, entertaining AND fresh.
Kudos to you Ms. Barron, you are simply marvelous. This book, set in the wonderful countryside of Kent for the most part, echoes those beautiful descriptions conjured up by Jane Austen; this however is written from the perspective of a professional gardner with a fully detailed list of flowers and shrubs used to create a White Garden -- the brainchild supposedly of Virginia Woolf. The idea for it came up during England's attack from Germany in the second World War where all light was blacked out to create a foil for the bombers using light and landmarks to bomb England. The white garden would be luminous at night helping to guide the family along the pathways. As the story unfolds about the last months of Virginia Woolf's life, the leading character gains insight into her Grandfather's life from documents found in the Gardener's shed. The conflict immediately begins as to ownership of those documents and whether or not Virginia Woolf had written them before she died. A lively mystery ensues with so many twists and turns, one hasn't time to do much wondering at what the end will be as you are completely swept up by the story line moving artfully towards the conclusion.
Stephanie Barron is one of my favorite writers, either in this incarnation or as Francine Mathews. In this re-imagining of Virginia Wolff's last days, she uncannily creates prose that reads like Wolff, but loses the thread of the plot about 3/4 of the way. The cover art is outstanding. I have Tony Lord's book on Sissinghurst, so it was all the more meaningful for me.
This is a good book to read if you already know something about the very famous setting and who Virginia Woolf and her friends were. The non-Woolfian plot--the adventures of a gardener hired to reproduce Sissinghurst's famous white garden--leads to interesting conclusions.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It connected wartime history with literary history and a satisfying mystery. I actually wish it had gone on longer to see where the characters went after the mystery was solved!