Timy reviews The Twilight Garden, Sara Nisha Adams‘ Contemporary Fiction standalone novel.
|Date of Publishing:||June 8, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||implied racism, death|
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
- Free Your Mind
- I’m Still Here
- Mindenütt jó (Everywhere is Good)
- Family Portrait
- The Diary of Jane
- I’ll Be There
There’s life all around you, if you just take the time to look for it…
In a small pocket of the city, between the houses of No. 77 and No. 79 on Eastbourne Road, there’s a neglected community garden.
Once vibrant and welcoming, and a sanctuary for the people when they needed it most, the garden’s gate is firmly closed.
But it only takes a small seed of an idea for big changes to happen. And as the neighbours’ need for connection grows, the twilight garden comes out of hibernation…
From a bright new voice, Sara Nisha Adams, comes a life-affirming story of small spaces, small pleasures & friendships coming into bloom…
I admit, I had no idea what song to pick for The Twilight Garden, so I just put “garden” into the search bar on YouTube, and Garden by Ghost Rider x Ranji ft. Stonefox was one of the many results between Soundgarden and random gardening videos. I absolutely have no idea who they are, and this song is outside of my comfort zone, but it fits surprisingly well, so I’m happy with it.
The Twilight Garden was another impulse request on NetGalley. I liked the cover and thought it would be a nice break from all the heavy stuff I had on my upcoming list, not to talk about a nice genre break from Fantasy. I haven’t read Sara Nisha Adams‘ previous novel, so I had no idea what to expect. I basically just wanted a nice book with nothing too complicated. On that account, The Twilight Garden delivered nicely.
The Twilight Garden is a story within the story type of novel, in which we follow the events on two timelines. One timeline is set in the present(ish) of 2019-2020 with Bernice and Winston in the focus, while the other timeline tells the story of Maya and Apple throughout the 1970s and ’80s. What connects them is a small garden and two old houses that share said garden in the London suburb.
Maya is in her twenties when she and her husband, Prem arrive in London from Kenya, following in her sister’s footsteps. They rent the house she and her family rented before them, with a big garden and a prickly neighbour, Alma. At first, she struggles in her new environment, but as she slowly makes friends with Alma through gardening together, she gets to know the community, finds new friends, and eventually builds a happy life with her own family. And when tragedy strikes, her found family is there to help her through it all.
Winston’s been living in the same house where Maya and her family lived for five years now, with his partner, Lewis. He came to London from India to work in the bank industry as his father wanted, but that was never his path, and eventually settled for working at the nearby grocery store. While Lewis remains extremely busy with work, the pair slowly grows apart. And on top of it all, the house that stood empty for decades, suddenly has a new owner, Bernice, a freshly divorced mother of a young boy. They constantly war with each other for one thing or another. Prompted by mysterious letters dropped on his doorstep with pictures and articles about the garden in its prime, Winston decides to further annoy Bernice by taking up gardening and restoring the garden. And while it seems like the world is falling apart for both Winston and Bernice, the garden’s magic does its work.
I found The Twilight Garden an interesting read. It was a slice-of-life kind of book which I don’t read often, but it sure was a nice change. I enjoyed reading about the lives of these people, their everyday struggles, and the way their friendships evolved naturally. I found it engaging, if sometimes a bit boring. But it was also fascinating to read about these parallel lives that were so different but at the same time had some similarities. And how the same place can be so different for the people occupying it. I enjoyed the slow build, the way we really got to know the key characters, and the way they were written, they felt very real. I wished the side characters were a bit more rounded/interesting, though. They could have added more depth to the story.
And while we are at it, The Twilight Garden touches upon several societal issues – racism, diaspora, the clash of cultures, the insecurity LGBTQ people feel not just in Western cultures (Winston has Indian origins, and he’s been hiding his work and identity from his parents for fear of disappointing them) and how they face the same problems as any other couples. These are all very interesting and serious topics that need discussion, but the thing is, I felt that while the book does touch upon these issues, it does very lightly, only just scratching the surface. I think I wanted to know more about how the characters feel about these issues, something deeper. There was just something missing for me to really connect with them – and this book.
In conclusion, I had a nice time with The Twilight Garden. Probably could have used a trimming in reflections on societal issues and a deeper exploration of the remaining ones, but it certainly can make one think about these things. It’s generally a feel-good slice-of-life story about friendship, found families, and the power of nature that connects us all, whether we want it or not. Life can be lonely, especially if you are far away from home, or your loved ones (physically or otherwise), but there is always a community just on the other side of the gate, waiting for you to discover it. If you are brave enough to open up.
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