I will not lie - one of the best parts of reading this was having it narrated by Ewan McGregor in my head.
To further the truth-telling: had this not been written by Robert Harris, I would have skipped the book and gone straight to the movie, which I would only have seen (via Netflix) based on the cast. Does anyone else have a girl crush on Olivia Williams?
Here's why I would have skipped it: it's a work of political fiction. It's full of intrigue and, due to a classic Fish-Out-Of-Water device, a lot of explanation of The Way Things Work. Which is all fine and dandy if you - like the Ghost - have lived in a politics-free-bubble your entire life. I haven't. My father was in the Navy and I have seen The West Wing enough times that I can quote lines. So at times I found it tiresome.
Not tiresome at all: the basic plot. The Ghost (who is never named) steps in to take over for a previous Ghost Writer who has died in a mysterious and ominous fashion. The book is written almost as a confessional to the reader, peppered with "had I known at the time" or "little did I know..." which is nice for the purpose of foreshadowing and does help build the momentum for apex of the plot and it's ultimate resolution.
It was good. It was not very good. I am not going to tell everyone I know to read it. But it was solidly good and I didn't throw it down in exasperation even once. (If only you knew how often I do that...it explains the length of time between posts.) If you like political thrillers, pick this up. If you do not, move along to something more your cup of tea.
I can't let this go - it's not quite a spoiler, but it's more than I generally like to share: in the final chapter, the Ghost breaks the 4th wall. It's abrupt and direct and off-putting. I'm much more a fan of letting it go to the reader's imaginations...but this time Harris felt the need to tell me how to feel about it.
Oh well, I will continue to read him because overall he is a very good writer.
and here is the trailer, which I will be watching just as soon as netflix sends it to me:
The Red Garden takes place over 200(ish) years in the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts. You always hear people say "in this movie/book/show/whatever, New York City is actually a CHARACTER" and you think "whatever. It's a setting. Move on." But in this case, Blackwell comes closer to being an actual character than I have ever witnessed of NY. Not to belittle NY, but Hoffman has crafted a story that makes those other attempts look amateurish.
In fact, the main thread of the plot is the evolution of this town - from it's founding by a woman who sets a high bar for resolve and resourcefulness to today, when descendents of the founders find themselves again and again in the soil of the garden whose soil is blood red and where only red plants will bloom. In between there is mystery and gossip, urgency, love, loss, and peace.
Hoffman is a master storyteller who never fails to disappoint. I admit I was skeptical about the timeline and the lack of a conventional "plot" but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm glad that my reaction at the library was "cool! Hoffman's new book!" and I added it to my stack. It is definitely good reads.
ps - it has nothing to do with this show.