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About this book
• Winner of the 2014 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the Manitoba Book Prizes!
• Finalist for Best Book Cover / Jacket Design at the 2014 Alberta Book Design Awards!
Edith Stoker’s father is building a wall in their backyard. A very, very high wall—a brick bulwark in his obsessive war against their hated neighbour Edward Black.
It is 1969, and far away, preparations are being made for man to walk upon the moon. Meanwhile, in the Stokers’ shabby home in the East Midlands, Edith remains a virtual prisoner, with occasional visits from her grotesque and demanding Aunt Vivian serving as the only break in the routine.
But when shy, sheltered Edith begins to quietly cultivate a garden in the shadow of her father’s wall, she sets in motion events that might gain her independence … and bring her face to face with the mysterious Edward Black.
Rosie Chard’s followup to her award-winning debut Seal Intestine Raincoat is an engrossing, often mordantly funny portrait of a young woman who miraculously finds her own pathway to freedom within the most stifling of environs.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
I was sweeping the porch with the wide broom when I found the fly. A live fly, it was sealed inside the bottle of milk waiting on the doorstep. I knew it was still alive even before I picked up the cold glass and peered inside. Its legs waved frantically and its body drifted in a wave of milk that slapped against the sides with every movement of my hand.
I glanced up the street, and then looked towards my neighbour’s hedge; just leaves, just twigs.
“What’s wrong with the milk?” my father said, as I entered the kitchen.
“There’s a fly inside the bottle,” I replied.
“Who put it there?” my father said, frowning.
“No-one.” I placed the bottle on the draining board. “It … it just happened.”
“He did it!” My father shoved back his chair, his neck tall with anger.
I drew in a breath. Of course he had done it; there was no doubt in my father’s mind. He had sneaked into our garden while it was still dark and stolen the milk from the doorstep. He had removed the lid with a knife, captured the fly and dropped it into the bottle. The bottle was now sealed. The milk was now tainted; I could almost see the limp feeding tube dipping into the liquid like a straw, not sucking up, but leaching downwards.
“I can throw it away,” I said.
“No, I’ll do it.” My father stepped towards me and closed his fingers round the glass neck. A whiff of mothballs wafted out from beneath his armpit as he lifted the bottle up, opened the back door and disappeared into the garden, leaving a rectangle of early morning sunshine lying on my feet. A shadow fell onto my toes and I looked up just in time to see my father’s raised arm silhouetted against the sky.
I rushed out of the back door. No, please!” But it was too late. The trapped fly was airborne again; it soared over the garden wall like a white bird. As the sound of breaking glass raced back into our garden I clamped my hands over my ears and looked up at the wall that divided us from our neighbour. He had the fly now.
He deserved it.
“The tension never falters; secrets, enigmatic neighbours, revulsion and fear surround a uniquely dysfunctional family. I do believe Rosie Chard has created a new sub-genre: Neo-Gothic Garden Mystery.”
“A captivating, witty and beautifully written novel which probes the quirks and foibles of the English psyche.”
"Blood feuds and family secrets boil under the respectable surface of 1960s small town England in Chard's second novel.... While the lead up is long, readers who persevere are rewarded with a satisfying and well-crafted dénouement."
"For fans of mystery, English period pieces, coming of age tales, feminism, and, well, just solid storytelling, I would certainly recommend Rosie Chard’s The Insistent Garden. It’s one of the better novels I’ve read this year, and enough of a testimonial to make me want to read Chard’s first novel, Seal Intestine Raincoat." full review
"The novel is populated by baroque characters, vivid in their oddity, but they are not allowed to distract us from Edith, for this is the story of a lonely, marginalized individual in transition, the beginning of the rest of a life." full review
"The book has a timeless feel, and far from feeling cut off from culture, it suggests more connections every time I think about it." full review
"Has all the simplicity and lingering menace of a Victorian fairy tale.... [i]t evolves quietly into a cross between rosy mystery and romance that carries its sheltered protagonist to the threshold of the bigger world." full review
"If you take nothing away from The Insistent Garden other than the desire to plant a bed of blue flowers and a feeling of deep unease, you will know the conflicted heart of Edith Stoker, and Chard will have done her job." full review
"While the book leaves a lasting impression, it is mostly in Chard’s beautiful descriptions of flora that I found myself joyfully lost..." full review