“Love makes you do things you never thought you were capable of.“
Georgina Moore ~ The Garnett Girls
Forbidden, passionate and all-encompassing, Margo and Richard’s love affair was the stuff of legend–but, ultimately, doomed. When Richard walked out, Margo locked herself away, leaving her three daughters, Rachel, Imogen, and Sasha, to run wild.
Years later, charismatic Margo entertains lovers and friends in her cottage on the Isle of Wight, refusing to ever speak of Richard and her painful past. But her silence is keeping each of the Garnett girls from finding true happiness.
Rachel is desperate to return to London but is held hostage by responsibility for Sandcove, their beloved but crumbling family home. Dreamy Imogen feels the pressure to marry her kind, considerate fiancé, even when life is taking an unexpected turn. Wild, passionate Sasha, trapped between her fractured family and controlling husband, is weighed down by a secret that could shake the family to its core.
Life is full of challenges. Families are complicated. Some of us cling onto the past, believing it to hold the secrets to our future, to happiness and to success. But how much of what we remember is actually the truth?
As children, we see the world differently. Yet children often understand more than adults give them credit for. In The Garnett Girls, three sisters are navigating adult life, each affected differently by a less than perfect childhood.
Moore has perfectly captured the sibling dynamic; no matter how close you are when you’re young, there will always be a sense of competition. Yet when it matters, this is replaced by fierce loyalty. The sisters are very interesting characters: Rachel the smart, sensible eldest who tries to please everyone; Imogen the middle child, who is torn between doing what she wants and what she knows her mother wants; and Sasha, the youngest, who refuses to face up to reality and cannot really remember the time when Margo was in bed.
Their similarities and differences cause clashes whenever they meet and yet the bond between them is a joy to read about. As the eldest of three siblings, the parallels between the Garnetts and my own family are strong, making Moore’s story extremely relatable.
Each character has their own personal struggle, but although many sensitive subjects are tackled, none feels glorified or overdone. As the story progresses and we understand more about why the girls’ parents’ relationship broke down, we see multiple domestic tragedies unfold. Rather than focus on the events themselves, Moore considers the emotions and effects of gaslighting, adultery, depression and others, but all are handled well and readers will no doubt relate to one character in particular. Whilst I could see myself in Rachel, there were elements of Imogen that also resonated and I found her story the most interesting.
Margo on the other hand is a law unto herself. She is perhaps who many of us long to be when we ‘grow up’ – carefree, fun and a renowned social butterfly. Yet, as we get to know the family, we see how Richard’s departure changed her as a person. The ending may not provide complete resolution, but what we do have is hope and self-acceptance.
The setting of the Isle of Wight is less prominent than I expected, but does increase the sense of isolation felt by some of the characters. Not quite a character in itself, its people and community really add to the vibrancy of the family’s past and the stifling atmosphere of the present.
Overall this is a well-written, well-observed novel with heart, looking at the ups and downs of family, belonging and the nostalgia. A beautiful debut that will not be easily forgotten.
Thanks to HQ Books for my proof copy. Opinions my own.