My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - in and out over 3 days
Pages - 322
Publisher - Lake Union Publishing
Source - Netgalley
Blurb from Goodreads
Can the power of love overcome life’s darkest memories and deepest losses?
When her favourite beech tree is felled in a storm, Ann feels as if someone has died. But when long-hidden seed packets are found inside the trunk, Ann realises there are more memories than her own lurking within the ancient tree . . .
A century earlier, head gardener William Hatherwick and Hester Mordaunt, mistress of Beechgrave, share a love for the mighty estate – and an undeclared love for each other. But when war breaks out, William is sent to the battlefields of France, and as the conflict rages on, Hester grieves beneath the tree. Can she and William ever find happiness once he’s witnessed the horror of the trenches?
In the present day, historian Connor Grenville wants to understand why his late grandmother tried to destroy Hester’s archive before she died. Who was she trying to protect – and why? His findings bring long-suppressed memories back to Ann’s mind . . .
Beneath the shadow of the tree, love is won and lost, and secrets are hidden and revealed. Will the truth heal the wounds that lie buried in the past?
I started reading Gillard back in the days of RISI (ReaditSwapit), after reading and loving her first book I bought all the others available. This one popped up for review and I realised I didn't have it, it is like meeting up with an old friend, characters you just want to know more about and sink into the story. Split into two timelines, current day we meet Ann who has come home to look after her mother who is struggling after surviving cancel but fierce in her own independence. She has always been a prickly character but Ann loves her. Connor comes into their lives, a gardener who is trying to find out more about his past and an old felled tree gives up some secrets from the past - the trio work together to figure out the history and secrets witnessed by the tree. Taking us back to the past and those who lived there prior to and during the war, living the lives Ann and co are trying to piece together.
Gillard really does have a way with words, when we are in the present I didn't want to leave, when we go back to the past I didn't want to leave. The past is a time when war is looming, women must behave in a certain way and love and loss are abundant. It can't be easy bringing to life two lots of characters, in two timelines and keeping a flow and relevance between the two. All families have secrets and when the characters pry and piece everything together they may find more than they could have imagined.
I do love a book that pulls you in and gives you characters that have a bit of depth, two timelines that can be weaved together and pull you in very quickly. I think had life/work not got in the way I would have read this in one go. I still have a few of Gillard's books on my tbrm, I like her writing so much I was saving them, I think I need to bump them up the review mountain. 4.5/5 for me this time, if you haven't read this author before you really should, she creates characters/families you just want to know more about!