Thursday, 2 January 2020

Book Review: THE POISON GARDEN by Alex Marwood

Author: Alex Marwood
Publisher: Penguin Books
Read: December 2019
Expected publication: 14 January 2020
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 all the stars!

Book Description:

Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.

Now 22, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone - and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.

Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago.

And that you can't walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you...

My musings:

THE POISON GARDEN, a great title that immediately got my attention, was one of those rare books that grabbed me from page one and utterly absorbed me into the story and its characters. Now that I have finished the book, the ghost of its rich cast is still with me, and I am wondering how their story will go on. It’s the sign of great writing when the setting and characters become so real that I can picture them vividly in my mind like flesh-and-blood people.

I find books about cults fascinating, but rarely has an author managed to capture the essence of it as Harwood has done. By offering us insights into the minds of several characters who are involved in the cult – some of whom have been born and raised there – a deeper understanding grows. Why was Somer initially attracted to join the cult led by its enigmatic leader Lucien, ready to believe his seemingly outlandish ideas? How did baby Romy fare, born on the outside but member of the “family” since she was a baby? And her siblings, Eden and Ilo, one of whom is Lucien’s child? As the story revisits the past 15 or so years of Romy growing up in the folds of the community, the answers slowly emerged to form a full – frightening - picture.

I love books that make you question your own belief  systems, and as I was ready to sneer at Lucien’s congregation for being so gullible, I soon came to see that we are all a product of our upbringing, and the programming (or brainwashing) we receive through family and friends in our lives. Sarah, Romy’s aunt, who is her contact in the world “outside”, beautifully brought this point home to me, as her life has also been coloured by the fanatical beliefs of her own parents, even if in different ways. There was a constant sense of impending doom that made this book a real page turner, and I feared for each and every character – with good reason!

It is impossible to discuss this book without spoilers, even though I would love to. It affected me deeply in many ways, and I am itching for my friends to read it so we can talk about it! Any book that can do that to me, as well as keep me up all night because I just can’t put it down, deserves a solid five stars. It’s a great finale to my year’s reading, and one I thoroughly enjoyed all the way. I can’t wait to read more from this talented author!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Image result for 5 stars

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