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The Savage Garden

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,142 Ratings  ·  529 Reviews
Tuscany, 1958

Behind a villa in the heart of Tuscany lies a Renaissance garden of enchanting beauty. Its grottoes, pagan statues and classical inscriptions seem to have a secret life of their own - and a secret message, too, for those with eyes to read it.

Young scholar Adam Strickland is just such a person. Arriving in 1958, he finds the Docci family, their house and the un
...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published 2007 by Harper (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Blair
A quick, easy and absorbing read with a mildly compelling plot and an interesting cast of characters. I wasn't too impressed with the quality of the writing, though; one of the reviews quoted on the jacket makes the rather outlandish claim that it's of Booker nominee standard, but there's noticeable repetition of several phrases, the sex scenes are frankly terrible, and the dialogue is littered with slang that I don't think would have even existed in 1950s Britain, let alone been understood by a ...more
Heather
Aug 30, 2007 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art lovers, people interested in classical studies, mystery readers
Andrew Strickland is a somewhat unfocused art history student at Cambridge University. His work is rather lackadaisical, drawing heavily on his source material without coming to many original conclusions. He prefers to spend his days drinking with friends and has given little thought to his thesis. After all, it’s not due for a year.
Everything changes when Andrew’s mentor, Professor Leonard, assigns him to a special summer project. The owner of a famous memorial garden in Tuscany has requested
...more
Hayes
Jun 14, 2010 Hayes rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
3.5 stars, more or less, but gets an extra half star for mentioning things I love (in no particular order):

ancient villas in Tuscany
good wine
la fiorentina (T-Bone steak, Tuscan style)
The Boboli Gardens
Siena
the Dorothy L. Sayers translation of The Divine Comedy
The Bomarzo Gardens
natural hot springs

I would have been just as happy without the sex, but that's just me.

A decent mystery, nice story telling. Motivations and plot a little thin at the end, but not so as you'd notice overly much.

A nice r
...more
Aredhel
Mar 30, 2010 Aredhel rated it it was ok
At a glance this book is an interesting blend of art, history and mystery. However as you begin reading it, it turns out to be a total disappointment.

First of all, there are shabby dialogues...gosh! I just can't believe, that those phrases, that the main characters employed in their daily life, can be called dialogues at all. For ex,

“It’s different.”
“What?”
“The sound.”
“How?”
“I don’t know.”


This is, undoubtedly, a real "masterpiece"! And suchlike dialogues are everywhere!

Then there is the main cha
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Jodie
Jan 07, 2009 Jodie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading this book I was torn between digging up my old art history books, brushing up on my classics, and running off to a villa in Italy, hopefully one with an amazing sculpture garden. The plot unfolded beautifully and with bits and pieces of the classics and art intertwined with descriptions of this amazing garden. An art history lesson tucked into a mystery. Now if I could just find that villa in Italy....
TwoDrinks
Note to self: you didn't like this book. It is tedious for several reasons. Firstly, I'm not in to Greek or Roman mythology and sadly this is central to the story. Secondly, it's set in 1958 but you keep forgetting because this isn't tied in to the tale enough. Thirdly, what are the three sex scenes about? They seem to be written in a different voice by a different author. Fourthly, the writer is really mean about giving the reader clues to help you piece together the crime (or maybe I missed th ...more
Rachel Hawes
Nov 28, 2007 Rachel Hawes rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction, 2007
Another book about a house with a dark past -- and another reference to Jane Eyre!

Set in Tuscany in 1958, Adam - an art history undergrad - goes off to stay at a villa to study the sculpture in the gardens for his thesis. As he uncovers the message of the gardens, and subsequently a crime committed 400 years ago, he also begins to uncover a similar crime much closer to home.

Whilst the plot is a little far fetched, this is beautifully written and the descriptions of the Tuscan landscapes, and th
...more
Cecilia
Oct 11, 2007 Cecilia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: thriller readers/mystery fans
Shelves: favorites
This book uses the magic and allure of Tuscany to its advantage by setting a taut mystery within one of the region’s gardens. Mills does a great job of setting the stage for his mystery…which is much more psychological than action. Mills’ main character, Adam Strickland, is a Cambridge grad student who is given what appears to be the assignment of a lifetime. While in the gardens of Tuscany which he is to write about, he uncovers a mystery several centuries past. This mystery of long ago leads h ...more
John
Jun 04, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A literary mystery that had me completely absorbed.

It's 1958 and Cambridge art-history postgrad Adam Strickland, recently dumped by his girlfriend, is persuaded by his tutor that the topic of his thesis should be a memorial garden in the grounds of an Italian villa. Once arrived, Adam discovers the garden is strangely haunting -- that it's by no means just a random repository of sculptures, that everything in it has a meaning and contributes to the telling of a story . . . to, in fact, the confe
...more
Sarah Norman
Feb 16, 2011 Sarah Norman rated it it was ok
Well, this is one of those books that makes me feel like I better become an author. Seriously, can any old crap become a bestseller? If so, let me start writing. That's a bit mean, but DUDE. It was a bit rubbish.

It tells the story of a young man who as a university project goes to study a Renaissance garden in Italy. It's written in the past, and opens with him in university, and the narrator says of his past self: "Try as he might, he couldn't penetrate the workings of that stranger's mind, let
...more
Sophie
Apr 05, 2008 Sophie rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: someone who is going on holiday to Tuscany and has already read The Enchanted April
Shelves: world-war-ii
I read this for a book group and hated it. There are so many plotholes and unfinished elements. You get the feeling that the writer read the Da Vince Code and thought he too could write a thriller based on his knowledge of art history. The result is far from thrilling though; the characters are not believable(particularly the female ones), the plot is highly contrived and even more unbelievable than the characters and the ending is rushed. On the plus side, the descriptions of the garden and of ...more
Rebecca
Jul 11, 2011 Rebecca rated it did not like it
Too dull to keep reading. It's kind of hard to get excited about a mystery featuring Art History majors obsessing over the arm positions of statues and what they might mean. Maybe there was more to the book but I couldn't find any of it in the first 80 pages.
Belinda
Sep 12, 2015 Belinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
Wat een hele mooie detective roman is dit. Een literaire "who-done-it". Niet schuwend klassieke meesterwerken te verwerken in dit boek. Adam krijgt van zijn professor de vraag of hij een scriptie wil schrijven over een tuin in Toscane. Het jaar is 1958 en Italië heeft nog de wonden van de tweede wereld oorlog. Hij is een naïeve Engelsman van 22 jaar die in een totale andere wereld terecht komt. Maar hij heeft een heldere blik, en blik die zijn gastvrouw wel kan waarderen. Er ontspint zich het ve ...more
Jthink
Jul 24, 2009 Jthink rated it really liked it
I agree with many of the other reviews: slow paced, but the atmosphere and the story's setting in beautiful Tuscany, a place I have visited, created by Mark Mills more than makes up for the pacing. It is also extremely erudite: a cultured and well-written story. Well done Mr. Mills. I enjoyed it.

ADDENDUM: Coming across this book again in sorting out a few bookshelves (in real life), I re-read it. The reason being that it turned out the author had successfully evoked images in mind when reading i
...more
Linda
Sep 25, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing
Cambridge student Adam Strickland is handed the opportunity of a lifetime, a two week trip to Tuscany to study the 17th century garden at the Villa Docci. Never before studied, it's the perfect thesis topic. When he arrives, Adam finds both villa and garden enchanting, and somehow mysterious. The elderly Signora Docci and her granddaughter Antonella are equally charming. But as Adams delves into the garden's many enigmatic features, he begins to question the reasons behind its design. The garden ...more
Bev
The Savage Garden, the second novel by British author Mark Mills, is a literary mystery in the tradition of juxtaposing historical and contemporary events. Set in the post-World War II era, it focuses on Cambridge student Adam Strickland who is in search of a subject for his art history thesis. His mentor suggests that he research an Italian garden found on the estate of Signora Francesca Docci. The garden was built by the villa's first owner, Federico Docci, and has been recognized as a tribute ...more
LindyLouMac
May 25, 2008 LindyLouMac rated it liked it
Despite the very slow pace of this novel I found it hugely atmospheric. Maybe especially so because I know some of the places mentioned personally, A particular favourite being Bomarzo, The Sacred Wood.

Will definitely appeal to lovers of Italy, Gardens their histories and thrillers. It was only my interest in these first two that kept me turning the pages at first because I found I was almost halfway through before the mystery pulled me in properly. I was pulled in very slowly by the mystery of
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Graham Crawford
Feb 28, 2016 Graham Crawford rated it liked it
This book was recommended by a friend -- and from all the hoo-ha on the back cover I was supposed to be reading a literary masterpiece. If that was the writer's intention, he was certainly punching above his weight. It's a perfectly good holiday mystery/ romance. The mystery bit has pretty Tuscan scenery and Renaissance art history. The Romance bit has a couple of willing 1950's fashionable foreign femme fatales throwing themselves at our all too clever Englishman abroad.

A perfect poolside read
...more
Barbara Rosenthal
Apr 25, 2008 Barbara Rosenthal rated it it was amazing
A darkly provocative mystery set in the Tuscan hills; clue by clue the mystery of the ancient garden is revealed; and a more recent murder. Fun! Fun! Fun!
Dark-Draco
Jun 08, 2016 Dark-Draco rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-fiction
I had really high hopes for this book, considering it is recommended reading on so many book lists, but somehow I was left a bit disappointed.

The plotline had promise - a young student travels to an Italian house to study a garden in the grounds. There are many mysteries surrounding the lay-out of the garden and he sets about getting to the bottom of why it was set out as it was. Meanwhile, he also discovers that the family has it's own secrets and sort of gets drawn into solving that mystery a
...more
Marina Maidou
Jul 23, 2015 Marina Maidou rated it liked it
An italian mystery with a young englishman who goes to a villa near Florence to study an italian garden. The title is mysterious about the "savage". Of course it doesn't mean it has wild trees and jungles, but the people there are savage in some way. The characters are somehow typical (the friendly mysterious grandmother, the faith servant, the beautiful granddaughter, the dangerous or sympathetic brother etc.) The two mysteries, one about the owner of the garden which mix Ovidius an Dante and t ...more
Ape
Jan 31, 2015 Ape rated it it was ok
2008 review on my bookcrossing:

Curiously, I found it took a while to get into this and then about half way through it started to pick up. I think it works well as light summer reading, but once you've read it once, you're not going to want to read it again.

The writing is ok, but not fantastic, and I really didn't get a feel for the period it's supposed to be set in. And the way he discovered new things about the mysteries were really lame. I mean, realising someone isn't their father's child bec
...more
Stephan
Nov 18, 2008 Stephan rated it it was ok
I wonder what the best selling book of this author is like after reading this. Certain elements were delivered with beautiful detail while others seemed to set the story in a vague and uncertain setting. My largest complaint with this narrative was with the time in which the story was to have taken place. With the exception of the author telling the reader of the year, no where is there any point of reference to enforce it. Neither the clothes of the characters nor the phrases used in their lang ...more
Kellie
Sep 26, 2008 Kellie rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2007-reads
I was so excited to read this. I had read Amagansett last year and loved it. I was disappointed in this one. The idea behind this was extraordinary. A art history student is invited to Italy to figure out the meaning behind an extravagant garden and the placement of statues within the grounds. He was to figure out the meaning behind the garden and all the objects within and see if it’s design had meaning. And that it did. What the student did not bank on was his personal involvement with the mem ...more
Sandra
Feb 07, 2016 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Um jovem estudante da universidade de Cambridge é convidado por um professor para realizar uma tese baseada num misterioso jardim. De início a ideia parece absurda, mas depois de considerar todas as possibilidades Adam aceita o convite e viaja para a Toscana, Itália, a fim de concretizar esse projecto. Mas tudo o que parece ser, não o é. E a viagem de Adam, desde o primeiro minuto, está programada por alguém que necessita dele, que precisa urgentemente de uma marioneta de modo a conseguir o que ...more
Kristen
May 07, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
The Savage Garden fits nicely into a subgenre I've begun to think of as the Academic Mystery. In this genre, there's usually some kind of old text that needs to be unraveled, while at the same time, a contemporary mystery or crime also presents itself. (Some favorites in this genre include Possession and Gospel.) In the Savage Garden, we follow a college student as he travels to Italy to study a 16th Century garden that harbors a mystery in its use of symbolism and mythology -- and stumbles acro ...more
Elaine Dowling
Sep 07, 2009 Elaine Dowling rated it liked it
This is an unusual book abut an English college student in the 1950's who goes to Italy to write a thesis on a Renaissance garden that still exists. The garden was created by the original owner of the attached house in memory of his dead wife. The student quickly figures out that all is not as it appears -- either in the garden's symbolism and the story it tells or in the locked up 3rd floor of the attached house.

In all honesty, a lot of things about this book could have been better. I would hav
...more
Melissa
Jun 29, 2008 Melissa rated it it was ok
I know I will be in the minority here. After all the book was full of art, literature, mythology...even a little genetics. It is for all of this intelligence that I will grudgingly give it two stars. That said, Mr. Mills expects us to believe that attractive women, young and old, will just drop their panties for a man that reads Dante. "Sexual favors in return for blanket praise. Was it really that simple?" Apparently, we are led to believe. Females in the story that are too old (the undesireabl ...more
Cindy
Sep 18, 2013 Cindy rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-read
This book was hard for me to get into. The redeeming part was the descriptions of the garden. Though I'm not really into Greek Mythology, the way the statues were described made me feel like I was right there walking through the garden with Adam. The explanations of the hidden meaning in the statues was something of a reach for me to grasp, as was the top floor of the villa being sealed off for so many years. The relationship between Adam and his brother, the way he worried about his mother, the ...more
iamtedae
Sep 24, 2007 iamtedae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical mystery
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this! It's set in 1940's (or thereabouts) England and Italy. Even though the tone and style are quite obviously masculine (meaning the female characters suffer a certain... lack of reality?), it's not overwhelming. The male characters, however are immensely entertaining. The story is gripping, the ending is surprising, and the main character invites support and liking. There's even a happy ending. I would LOVE to see this as a movie, even if it would cut out some marvelous inter ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Savage Garden by Mark Mills 1 18 Jun 22, 2015 02:22PM  
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7213367
Mark Mills is a British writer of screenplays and novels. His first screenplay was BAFTA-nominated short film One Night Stand starring Jemma Redgrave and James Purefoy in 1993; this won Mills a 'Best Screenplay' award at the Angers European First Film Festival in 1995.
Mills's first novel was Amagansett, later reissued under the title The Whaleboat House published in 2004; this won him the 'Best Cr
...more
More about Mark Mills...

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“It's the job of old people to disapprove of everything young people do. . .If we don't disapprove, then the young have nothing to fight against and the world will never change. It cannot move on.” 19 likes
“When they start killing the men of ideas, you can be sure the Devil is laughing.” 14 likes
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