The Alentjo, Portugal 1934
I am Ines Bretao and I am 18 years old. Now that I am finally an adult and soon to be married, I feel like my real life is about to begin. I have decided to document everything that happens to me, for my children and my grandchildren…
As Sarah Lacey reads the scrawled handwriting in her great-aunt’s journal on a trip to Portugal, she discovers a life filled with great passion, missed chances and lost loves – memories that echo Sarah’s own life. Because Sarah’s marriage is crumbling, her love for her husband is ebbing away, and she fears the one man she truly loves was lost to her many years ago…
But hidden within the faded pages of the journal is a secret Ines has kept locked away her entire life, and one final message for her beloved niece – a chance for Sarah to change her life, if she is brave enough to take it.
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but I have to admit I was initially draw to Garden Of Stars because of the cover…it is simply beautiful. The contents of the book are equally gorgeous in this tale of love, loss, regret and family secrets.
This moving and beautifully told story centres on Sarah and her great aunt Ines and is told over two time lines. Sarah has reached a point in her life in which her marriage has become staid and she is yearning for her lost love, Scott. Rose has given Sarah’s character depth and conveys her emotions wonderfully allowing the reader to empathise with her situation;
‘But still a hot flush swept over her, combined with a jolt of realisation that she wasn’t sure who she was anymore, or who she wanted to be.’
When the opportunity arises for her to return to her old home of Portugal she jumps at the chance and re-kindles contact with Scott. This chain of events leads her to re-evaluate her life. The dissatisfaction with her current life comes through and although her behaviour is unfair to her husband, Hugo, the range of emotions she goes through about her behaviour and the way Rose expresses them evokes understanding from the reader.
Ines is coming towards the end of her life and gives Sarah the journals she wrote as a young woman. The journal contains family secrets Sarah was unaware of and gives her a greater insight into her aunt and also her own life;
‘We always assume that those so much older than us have not experienced what we have, are somehow immune from human frailty, weakness, doubt and temptation, she though. But of course this is not the case.’
Ines’s story is incredibly touching and at one point reduced me to tears. The relationship between Sarah and Ines is also beautifully portrayed with the change in their roles through the natural course of their individual life stages coming through.
Set in Portugal as well as Britain, Rose has captured the essence of Portugal wonderfully through her rich descriptions and she transported me there each time I read a part of the story set there. The two timelines meld perfectly together, seamlessly moving the reader between present and past making Garden Of Stars an evocative and poignant read. While I became immersed in the story and the lives of both Sarah and Ines, I did find myself drifting away a little towards the latter half of the book, however, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as it quickly picked up pace again .
Garden Of Stars is a well written and constructed debut and I look forward to future books from Rose. A stirring novel that induces strong emotions in the reader, this is a wonderfully written book about how the grass is not always greener on the other side and that life is too short for regrets.
Thank you to Rose Alexander, Carina and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my review.
Published on Ebook on 25 July 2016 by Carina.
You can purchase a copy HERE.