Book: The French Gardener
Author: Santa Montefiore
It is 2005. Miranda and David move from London into Hartington House, a sprawling house in the English countryside, set amidst what was once a huge and beautiful garden, now slowly going to rot. They are quite the high-society couple – Miranda, the freelance writer, and David, the businessman. Their children, a girl named Storm and a boy named Gus, are adorable, but Gus has been giving them some problems lately. Miranda and David think the move will do all of them good, especially Gus. The working arrangements are finalised – Gus and Storm get admitted in a school near Hartington House and Miranda would take care of them, while David would work from London, joining his family over the weekends. Everything looks perfect, till they actually move in.
The slow pace of life in the countryside has Miranda frustrated, as do her lack of friends and the lack of David. Gus becomes even more troublesome, frightening off Storm. It is then that everyone she meets begins to tell Miranda about the beautiful garden that Hartington House once had, in fact the best garden in England. Ava Lightly, the previous occupant of the house, had extraordinary green thumbs and took great pride in maintaining her garden. Miranda decides to hire someone to keep the garden maintained, if not restore it to its previous glory. Handsome Frenchman Jean-Paul walks into Hartington House one fine day, and Miranda feels like her prayers have been answered when he announces that he is a gardener and can help her out. Jean-Paul is hired on the spot.
Sounds like quite the Mills and Boon-type fantasy, right? Yes. I knew the book would be quite chick-lit-ish when I bought it, but the bit about the garden and the English countryside took me in. I couldn’t resist the charm of that. Also, I wanted something easy-going to read in between heavy books.
I did love the descriptions about the idyllic life in the countryside and the garden but, sadly, the rest of the book was a big disappointment. For one, there is way too much flowery language, too much of ‘magic of the earth’ and ‘riding the rainbow’. The story becomes too fairytale-ish at times,with no semblance to reality. But then, I had expected that.
I also didn’t like the way most everyone in the story indulges in infidelity – it is apparently ‘okay’ if it ‘does not hurt anyone’. Errr.. what?
The one saving grace of this book is that the heroine is not a total bimbette. She is an intelligent woman, capable of taking her own decisions (that didn’t stop her from making some stupid decisions, like hiring Jean-Paul on the spot, though!).
This is not a book that I would really recommend. Have you read this one? What are your thoughts about it?