The Winter Garden by Nicola Cornick – Review

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By Sandra Callard

Nicola Cornick’s novel is split between the modern age and the years before and after those of the historic Gunpowder Plot in the year 1605. I have a great partiality for history, and am unsure about the strength of novels based on it for enjoyment, so I began this book with some misgivings – but the author really knows her stuff.

Lucy is convalescing from the grave illness of pneumonia at her sister’s beautiful old property in the Berkshire Downs and is very happy there, when she sees a woman, apparently from the seventeenth century, looking sadly and hopelessly at her. The woman quickly vanishes but, amazingly, Lucy is not afraid, and so begins her historical search for this woman to try and understand who she is and what she wants. There is, thankfully, no sense of the occult or the supernatural in the search, and as the centuries fall away the tale develops the aura of a very unusual detective story.

“Beautifully written”

the winter garden nicola cornick book review coverI was particularly impressed by Nicola Cornick’s skill as she moves between the centuries and allows the reader to know and accept that the people of those long ago times were very hardly different from those of us here at this moment. Her writing ebbs and flows with a silent ease that makes the reader unaware that they have read so many pages, whilst still eager to read more. I also like the way the author introduces a gentle love theme into the story. It is particularly apt as it blends so well with that of the long-dead, loving characters from centuries ago that appear.

It is also good to read a story concerning timeslips that is still a sensible, enjoyable and compulsive read. Stories of that category usually verge on the mystical and magical and downright crazy, but, thankfully, The Winter Garden escapes all of these calamities. It is a beautifully written, interesting and compelling story which makes you close the book with a smile because you have enjoyed it, but with a sadness that you have finished it.

The Winter Garden is not a long book, it covers some 355 pages, which seems just about right, but every page is totally readable and apt. The characters in this book are as potent and compelling as any I have known, and their presence is a solid and telling existence to the story. I feel I have left a huge gap in my reading as this is the first time I have read Nicola Cornick, but it will obviously not be the last.

‘The Winter Garden’ by Nicola Cornick is published by HarperCollins, £8.99 paperback


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