The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell is set in modern day London. Clare Wild and her two daughters, Pip (11) and Clare (12) have just moved into an open plan housing estate. The various buildings all back up onto a private park called Virginia Park (three acres). It is one giant backyard for the children who live in these buildings. The family had to move from their home because their father, Chris set fire to it (luckily no one was home). He wanted to stop the alien rat invasion that had infested their home. He thought he was saving the world (paranoid schizophrenia). Chris is currently in a mental health facility (they are putting him on new meds). Clare and Grace do not want any contact with him, but Pip writes him frequently. Pip is not allowed, though, to tell him where they have moved or any information that will lead Chris to their current whereabouts. Adele and Leo live across the way from the and they have three daughters (Willow, Catkin, and Fern). Grace quickly makes friends with the girls along with Tyler (another girl) and Dylan Maxwell-Reid. Pip is more of an observer. On July 5 (six months after they moved in) there is the Virginia Park Annual Summer Party. It is also Grace's thirteenth birthday. Pip goes to look for Grace about 10 p.m. and finds her unconscious (and in a state of undress). Grace is in a coma with a broken nose. What happened to Grace in the park? The police are called in and they start questioning the residents. Will they be able to uncover what happened that night in Virginia Park?
I found The Girls in the Garden to be an odd novel. It took me about four tries to get through this book. I have been trying to finish it since June (it was just hard to get into). The book is set up with Pip finding Grace in the park, then there is the "before" section. Grace is found and then we have the "after" section. The writing is satisfactory, but the pace is slow. At first it seems to be from Pip's perspective, but then it changes to Clare, then Adele (it keeps changing). The letters Pip writes to her father are also included in the book along with childish drawings. I felt the author tried to put too many characters into the books. We have the main characters and then all the strange neighbors (Rhea with her giant rabbit was my favorite). All the various characters just muddles the story and confuses the reader. I give The Girls in the Garden 2 out of 5 stars (I did not like it). The book contains inappropriate language, large quantities of alcohol, and intimate relations (the majority of this is among the kids). I did not feel any suspense or mystery. The identity of the perpetrator is obvious (in both crimes). The ending is terribly unsatisfying (and very peculiar). This would be a good book for parents to read on how not to raise their children. After I finished the novel, I was just disappointed (and felt I had wasted four hour of my life).