Review: Ivy Lane; Cathy Bramley

Twee, but in the nicest way possible (3.5 stars)

Source: review copy

Published by Corgi, due for release on February 26th 2015.

I read the Kindle edition. The paperback is 464 pages

I requested this book via Netgalley late last year and had been waiting for just the perfect time to read it. With its predominantly allotment setting, a cold chilly February evening seemed like an opportune moment; spring isn’t that far off after all, and I had high hopes that immersing myself in this may actually encourage me to get going in our own back garden again for the first time in a while. Like Tilly, the main protagonist in this novel, it’s fair to say that I am certainly something of a ‘fair weather gardener!’

Tilly Parker is looking to leave the sorrow of her past behind her and make some big changes in her life. Seeking out solace in a new town, she embarks on a new job and impulsively decides to take on a plot in the local Ivy Lane Allotments.  It seems like peace and quiet won’t be an option however- the Ivy Lane community draws Tilly into their fold and all too soon she is busy planting seedlings, organising bake sales and even becoming a TV star.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly finally be able to let go of her past and let new love back into her life?

I know, it sounds rather twee doesn’t it? Believe me when I say that this story is twee, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. There’s something wonderfully old fashioned about the sense of comradeship on the allotments and their bake sales and plant sales- I really appreciated those aspects of the story.

Ivy Lane is ultimately a novel about love, friendship and grief; yet despite its focus being on healing from bereavement it is also an uplifting, positive tale. I ended up liking this story a lot, certainly more than I had expected to after experiencing some decidedly poorer quality chick-lit as of late.  I read it in just a couple of hours in fact, soaking in the lovely community feel imbued by the allotments and the gardeners who tended their plots.  Ivy Lane was a genuinely warm, atmospheric read and I could clearly envisage the allotments, right down to the ramshackle sheds and Tilly’s overgrown plot.  It flowed beautifully and sucked me right in.

Some characters I definitely liked more than others; I felt that Gemma, Tilly’s new best friend was nicely written, albeit slightly over-enthusiastic for my tastes. Her voice was also somewhat annoying.  One of Tilly’s admirers, Charlie, seemed nice from the outset and then developed some creepy undertones, so I was keen to see what (if anything) would develop there. The secondary characters too, were well-developed. I actually found myself shedding a tear at one point, so I clearly became quite invested in their lives!

The main person of interest was of course Tilly herself. I appreciated how she began the book as a prickly, heartbroken individual and the journey that she went on through the course of the story.  Tilly herself has been through something absolutely life-changing and devastating- something really unbearably unimaginable, which is slowly alluded to through the plot-line. The allotment (and its resident gardeners) slowly draw her into their fold, and as a consequence she reluctantly begins to heal. The symbolism between that and the growth of the plants and the changing seasons was really lovely.

There were a few parts about the story that I didn’t enjoy so much; I did think that Tilly’s own past was dragged out ever so slightly; it didn’t matter so much here, but I can imagine for those readers who experienced this novel in its serialised form (it was initially released in single parts), that may have been somewhat frustrating. The romantic aspect which later developed was also a bit cringey in places, too.  I’m all for ‘will they-won’t they’ but this storyline had more ups and downs than a Mills and Boon.  It grew a bit tiresome all of the misunderstandings that took place between Tilly and her prospective suitor and it admittedly became a bit contrived in parts.

Overall this story offers a guaranteed happily ever after.  It’s a nice slice of feel-good escapism and a perfect read to curl up with in the garden this spring- after all, it may just inspire you!

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