One of People’s, Glamour’s, and Buzzfeed's Best Reads of Summer, from the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone
“Jewell expertly builds suspense by piling up domestic misunderstandings and more plot twists than an SVU episode. It’s a page-turner for readers who like beach reads on the dark side.” —People
“Faithful to the thriller genre, Jewell makes liberal use of red herrings and plot twists… The answer to the whodunit is a sly—and satisfying—surprise.” —The New York Times
“Full of suspense yet emotionally grounded…Fans of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Carla Buckley will adore this peek inside a gated community that truly takes care of its own, no matter the consequences." —Booklist (starred review)
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
This reading group guide for The Girls in the Garden includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
When the family home of Clare and her two daughters, Grace and Pip, is burnt to the ground, an apartment on a picturesque communal garden square looks like the perfect opportunity for all of them to forge a new life. Clare befriends stay-at-home mother Adele and her charming husband, Leo, and the girls begin spending time with a clique of neighborhood children. Everyone seems very welcoming and friendly to the newcomers. That is, until a festive neighborhood party takes a turn for the violent, and preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. Who in this close-knit community can they really trust?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Who did you first suspect of attacking Grace? Did your suspicions change over the course of the book? Were there clues that pointed you toward the perpetrator? What were some of the red herrings that misdirected your attention?
2. Adele has a very lenient, alternative parenting style, homeschooling and preferring to let her children make their own choices, whatever they are. She repeatedly suggests that she feels judged by others for her lifestyle. How did you feel about how she is raising her children? Were there points in the book you felt supportive or critical of her maternal choices?
3. The police suggest that Grace is “mature for her age” (page 206). Do you agree that Grace is (or is acting) more mature than her age? If so, how? How do Grace’s or Pip’s experiences compare with your own experience of being twelve and thirteen?
4. A major issue in this book is that of growing up. What growth do you see in Pip from the beginning to the end of The Girls in the Garden? Compare and contrast Pip’s development with the ways in which Grace matures.
5. Do you think Clare made the right decision in keeping Pip and Grace’s father’s release from the hospital a secret? Why or why not?
6. Adele asserts that “with parenting there’s a long game and a short game. The aim of the short game is to make your children bearable to live with. Easy to transport. Well behaved in public place . . . But the aim of the long game is to produce a good human being” (page 150). Do you agree with her belief that you can “skip” the short game? Is there a middle ground between her viewpoint and Gordon’s discipline-focused approach?
7. What draws Clare to Leo? Is her attraction to him based more on her own circumstances or something about him?
8. Why do you think Lisa Jewell wrote primarily from Pip, Clare, and Adele’s perspectives? What do these narrators have in common? What is unique about their different standpoints, and how does this affect the story?
9. Did you relate to any of the girls or parents more than the others? In what ways?
10. Do you think you would enjoy living in a home with a communal garden like the one described? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks?
11. What drives Catkin and Fern to follow Tyler’s lead? What do you think were their motivations for taking the actions they took?
12. Why does Adele ultimately look after Tyler? Are her motives purely selfless?
13. Do you think Adele does the right thing by keeping quiet after she discovers what happened to Grace? What would you have done in her position?
14. All of the girls go through both traumatic and formative experiences during the course of the book. What do you think the various girls will be like when they are grown up?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. We are given only a limited window into Tyler and Grace’s points of view on the day of Virginia Park’s annual summer party. As a group, choose an earlier scene to write in either Grace or Tyler’s voice. Share and discuss your creative pieces with your book club.
2. Pip and Grace are both significantly affected by their father’s struggle with schizophrenia. As a group, try reading another novel which depicts the impact of parental mental illness, such as Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany.
3. Watch the film Thirteen (directed by Catherine Hardwicke). Discuss how the film portrays the turning point of becoming a teenager. What ideas from The Girls in the Garden are echoed in the film? How does the role of the parents compare between the film and The Girls?
4. Check out more of Lisa Jewell’s books, such as The Third Wife and The House We Grew Up In. To find out more about Lisa, visit www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial, or follow her on twitter @lisajewelluk.
Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of sixteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found You, The Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.
“Lisa Jewell’s characters are so real that I finish every book half-expecting to bump into one of them. Modern, complex, intuitive, she just goes from strength to strength.”
– Jojo Moyes, author of After You
“Jewell expertly builds suspense by piling up domestic misunderstandings and more plot twists than an SVU episode. It’s a page-turner for readers who like beach reads on the dark side.”
“Full of suspense yet emotionally grounded…Fans of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Carla Buckley will adore this peek inside a gated community that truly takes care of its own, no matter the consequences.”
– Booklist (starred review)
“Rich characterization and intricate plot development are combined with mid-chapter cliffhangers that cut from one character’s point of view to the next, resulting in a riveting pace. Vivid descriptions of the bucolic park contrast with the evil lurking around the themes of teenage sexuality, perversion, peer pressure, and the desire for a complete family. Jewell adeptly creates a pervasive atmosphere of unease in this well-spun narrative.”
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
One of New York Post’s “Buzziest Books to Bring to the Beach”
“Jewell expertly mines the relationships of her compelling, multilayered characters for a perfect pack-for-vacation read.”
– Fort-Worth Star Telegram
“Jewell crafts another page-turner that keeps the suspense flowing…[and] sharply evades the truth while bouncing the story among multiple characters’ perspectives. Recommended for lovers of mysteries built on the complexities of family and the dismantling of the idea that being part of a community keeps us safe.”
– Library Journal
“An intoxicating, spellbinding read that will make readers entranced with Lisa Jewell’s wicked and gorgeous prose…raw, intense, gritty, dark and suspenseful. If you are looking for a looking for a psychological thriller that will unfold secrets and truths in a shocking manner, this book is for you.”
– Manhattan Book Review
“Faithful to the thriller genre, Jewell makes liberal use of red herrings and plot twists… The answer to the whodunit is a sly – and satisfying – surprise.”
– New York Times Book Review
"The writing is cause for pleasant pause."
– Seattle Times
“An engaging and atmospheric read, Lisa beautifully conjures up the half-child half-adult lives of young teenagers.”
– Jane Fallon, author of Skeletons
“Oh but I loved this book – a magical garden right in the center of the city, a long, hot summer simmering away, a group of young teens, lurching between boredom and passion and ripe for their lives to start. And at its center a dark and disturbing mystery that keeps you turning the pages long into the night. Lisa Jewell is the most compassionate storyteller. She writes with such lightness of touch, yet her books pack a powerful punch. A stunning, beautiful, mesmerizing book that everyone will be reading this summer.”
– Tamar Cohen, author of The Mistress's Revenge
“Lisa creates beguiling characters, which dazzle from the page. This is a terrific suspense story told with that brooding promise of danger that taunts us to read on, to chase the elusive truth at the heart of the book.”
– Rachel Hore, author of The House on Bellevue Gardens
“Jewell does a beautiful job of creating large companies of detailed and believable characters in her novels. Some are likable, some are not, and Jewell carefully explores what makes each of them tick, from the unstable to the overachievers to those in search of love... a delicate exploration of teenage love and rivalry, mental illness and how far people will go to protect those they care about. Fans of Liane Moriarty and JoJo Moyes will love The Girls in the Garden, as will anyone who remembers the angst and ecstasy of being a teenager.”
– Shelf Awareness
"Jewell offers an intriguing premise and characters…[and] createsa story ripe with anticipation and emotion."
– Kirkus Reviews
“Another winner. Beautiful writing, believable characters, a pacy narrative and dark secrets combine to make this a gripping read.”
– London Daily Mail
"Jewell pens a psychological thriller that leaves readers wondering if they really know all the answers. Children can be more frightening than adults, as she demonstrates in her brilliant portrayal of youthful deceit and jealousy. Each individual is vividly described and counterbalanced by their strengths and weaknesses."