The White Garden: A Novel
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The White Garden: A Novel

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  567 ratings  ·  146 reviews
In March 1941, Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in England’s River Ouse. Her body was found three weeks later. What seemed like a tragic ending at the time was, in fact, just the beginning of a mystery. . . .

Six decades after Virginia Woolf’s death, landscape designer Jo Bellamy has come to Sissinghurst Castle for two reasons: to study the...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Bantam
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Dorothy
As a gardener and an admirer of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series, I was very interested to read this book. I can't say that it quite lived up to my hopes for it, but in the end, I did find it an enjoyable and interesting read for its historical touches and for the bits of gardening lore. Barron seems to have an instinctive feel for gardens and gardening and I wondered if perhaps she herself is a gardener.

The thread that this tale hangs by is Barron's imagining that Virginia Woolf did not in...more
Carl Brookins
I scarcely know how to begin, not something a reviewer should admit publically, I suppose. This wonderfully realized and written novel is a first class literary mystery. It deals with a three-week period in l941 that marks the end of a troubled life, the life of Virginia Woolf. It is serendipitous that this novel comes to my hand at a time that epitomizes a good deal of what she was all about. In a word, independence. Independence for women and independence for writers.

Virginia Woolf was an Engl...more
Susan
I read this novel, which is written by a family friend, just after visiting Sissinghurst (the very famous gardens of Vita Sackville-West) where Virginia Woolf spent time. But I read it with some trepidation - I'm always nervous about any fiction involving Virginia Woolf because I'm such a purist about her - my adoration so deep - and so I took this on with some skepticism. As it turns out, I really enjoyed it. The sense of place in this novel is hugely important - and rarely have I had the pleas...more
Sandy
Interesting for its history, however there are some really excruciatingly, annoying, narcissistic and self-serving characters and a central character is very irritating and weak...... oh well, rather on par with Barron's other lightweight "Jane Austen" mysteries. (written as I was reading)

(When finished) As I continued reading, I found myself more engaged in the story and the mystery. The history of Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, John Maynard Keynes, the 'Apostles' as they were known - a p...more
Sheila
I snatched this one up, first because the cover caught my eye, and second, the title led me to believe it was a work of historical fiction. After reading the back cover and learning that it's really a mystery set in modern times, I was still gung-ho to read it.There is a little bit of history--and that part I liked, though I have to wonder about its authenticity. But for me, the rest of it was awfully contrived--"awfully" as both an intensifier and as in "exceptionally bad and displeasing." I th...more
Suburbangardener
This is a plausible explanation for the time lag between the day Virginia Woolf left her husband a suicide note and the discovery of her body in the river several weeks later. The protagonist is a garden designer, visiting Sissinghurst to copy the design of the White Garden for a client when she finds a notebook entitled "Notes on the Making of a White Garden." It's actually a journal beginning the day after Woolf disappeared.
I'm always a sucker for books with a gardener as the main character,...more
Jamespc
One would think that I would find a book about Virginia Woolf--any book, fictional or otherwise--to be entertaining. And yet this novel is poorly written, dull and ignorant of even basic details of Virginia's life. Only the portrait of the feminist scholar strikes me as having any entertainment value. The reader is presented with a mystery that turns out to be no such thing--by the end I wished only that all the characters had been butchered around page 30, when they were just starting to wear o...more
Lisa
I really liked this mystery--in fact, I went back and read the last few chapters a few hours after finishing the first time through. It is as much about the modern characters as the ones from Virginia Woolf's period, and I liked the main characters quite a lot. We're not supposed to really like the secondary characters, I believe.

It's also refreshing to see historical fiction that goes into relatively fresh territory.

I've had Virginia Woolf on my list of authors to explore for some time; this...more
Julie
How does one make gagging noises in print?

The tip-off, that this was going to be an atrociously painful read, occurred when "... Imogen Cantwell felt a sudden frisson of fear -- as though a serpent, in the form of this mild American woman, had suddenly slithered through Sissinghurst's garden." (page 17).

A dime-store romance novel disguised as a "serious" Virginia Woolf/Vita Sackville-West mystery.

Alas, poor Virginia! Alas, poor Vita! ... that their illustrious lives should be reduced to this t...more
Bonnie
Jo Bellamy goes to England to visit the Sissinghurst Castle for two reasons: to study the celebrated White Garden created by Virginia Wolf's lover Vita Sackville-West and to recover from her grandfather's suicide. She is a landscape designer working to recreate the White Garden for a wealthy man in the Hamptons. She meets Imogene Cantwell, the head gardener, and is taken on a tour. Inside one of the sheds, Jo finds a diary that seems to have been written by Virginia Wolf starting on the day afte...more
Juliet
I have renewed this one from the library as many times as I can, thinking I wanted to finish it- even if I didn't much like it or care what happens to the characters. Why do we do this to ourselves? I wish that instead of being a book about a modern character reading an old journal this had been set in a re-imagined past entirely. Might have served the story better.
Catherine
This was a great book. I was enthralled by what the author imagine had happened during the days that stand between Virginia woolf’s drowning on March 28th, 1941,and the discovery of her body on the river Ouse’s banks near her home on April 18, 1941 . Superb imagination!
It is an unbelievable story of suspense, unearthed treasures, lifetime guilt, and hunt for the truth, beautiful gardens real or imaginary, and all that is hidden in lives throughout time. Her characters are vivid and so diverse, t...more
Colleen
I admit, I have never read any of Virginia Woolf's books and the only thing I know about her prior to reading this book was the movie which inserted her name into a childish rhyme. yes I know this is a fictional account of a sliver of Woolf's life, but its structure is true and which led me to research even more about her life and want to read her material. This is why I love historical fiction more than any other genre, it triggers a 'need to know' sense in your brain. You need to need how much...more
Ash Bruxvoort
Stephanie Barron's The White Garden is a fictional attempt to understand what happened to Virginia Woolf during the three weeks after Leonard read her suicide note and she was actually found in the river. I normally get hung up on things like facts and how true to the story an author is staying, but I could not put this book down. When Jo Bellamy tells her grandfather, Jock, that she is going to Sissinghurst Castle to copy The White Garden for a client he says all the right things. After all, it...more
Antonia
I suppose the term "literary mystery" can mean one or both of two things: a mystery about a literary figure and/or literary production, or a mystery that is something other (or more) than a genre novel (examples include Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars). A. S. Byatt's Possession is really a literary mystery in both senses. The White Garden is certainly a literary mystery in the first. In the end, it is more plot-driven than one...more
SIMON Karine
Je tiens tout d’abord à remercier Les Editions Nil pour leur confiance et pour m’avoir permis de découvrir ce titre en avant-première.


Dans ce roman, nous voyageons avec Jo, une jeune paysagiste américaine, jusqu’en Angleterre pour étudier le célèbre Jardin blanc, créée par Vita Sackville-West, une très proche amie de Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf était une écrivaine Anglaise célèbre au début du vingtième siècle, mais aussi éditrice et critique littéraire. Elle fréquente la haute société londonie...more
Leslie
Barron casts Virginia Woolf as an unwilling witness to espionage in this erudite literary thriller that entwines a bold re-imagining of the end of Woolf's life with a landscape architect's search for meaning in her grandfather's suicide while studying the famous White Garden of Sissinghurst - Woolf's friend and lover Vita Sackville-West's home - to reproduce for a client.

Clever, well-researched, and suspenseful, The White Garden will appeal to fans of works such as Byatt's Possession> and Sto...more
Alice
Mlle Alice, pouvez-vous nous raconter votre rencontre avec Le Jardin Blanc?

"Connaissant déjà Stephanie Barron pour ses livres sur Jane Austen, j'ai été très intriguée de découvrir qu'elle s'était également attaquée à d'autres illustres auteurs telles que Virginia Woolf et Vita Sackville-West."

Dites-nous en un peu plus sur son histoire...


"Jo Bellamy, paysagiste américaine, se rend à Sissinghurst, la maison ayant autrefois appartenu à Vita Sackville-West et célèbre pour ses jardins, afin d'y cop...more
Kate
"In March 1941, Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in England's River Ouse. Her body was found three weeks later. What seemed like a tragic enging at the time was, in fact, just the beginning of a mystery ...

"Six decades after Virginia Woolf's death, landscape designer JoBellamy has come to Sissinghurst Castle for two reasons: to study the celebrated White Garden created by Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West and to recover from the terrible wound of her grandfather'...more
Michelle Lewis
"In Memoriam: White Garden

I said she was a moth, fluttered spirit, delicate;/ That bumped against the lamp of life. No mention made/ Of how they tortured her, prey to nameless fears,/ With such exact descriptions of the night;/ Its quality, deception, unnumbered shades of grey;/ Crept in to suffocate the plangent souls she loved./ The glow of blanched flowers and pale birds/ Her soul security for sleep./ O Virginia, whose cobweb fingers trailed/ Among our thorns, jabbering in tongues and fractur...more
Lisa
Delving into the mind of Virginia Woolf is like abseiling in the pitch-dark; if you don't find a foothold, something firm and familiar to hang onto, you can fall into the abyss and be lost completely.

This book rests on the present-day thread: the mystery of how Woolf could have begun a diary the day after she was supposed to have committed suicide. And it features a couple of likeable main characters. But, of course, as in any detective work, you have the villain(s) who are determined to get the...more
Lynda Irene
As a gardener I've long been enchanted by Vita Sack-Ville West's White Garden. I love that the White Garden itself was a prominent character in the novel. A garden is always in transition, it's ephemeral, it's endures over time with care. A garden is a memory and a dream of the future at the same time. A garden visibly exists in the here and now.

Barron uses the elements of a past, present and future of a garden as the framework of her story. Jock, Vita, Virginia and Harold-the past, Jo, Peter an...more
Carly Thompson
Gardener Jo Bellamy travels to Sissinghurst Castle to study the famous White Garden in order to create a replica for her wealthy American client. While there, she discovers a previously unknown diary by Virginia Woolf with the first entry dated after Woolf commited suicide. This sets in motion a chain of events as Jo seeks to uncover the truth about Woolf's last days and their connection to her beloved grandfather. This enjoyable mystery reminded me of a lighter version of Possession with the hu...more
Mary Anne
Having recently read about 17 mysteries over a span of 3 month, I decided enough is enough, and that I would move on to other genre. So I was in my local public library where I came upon The White Garden A Novel of Virginia Woolf. Now I ask, does that sound like a mystery? It didn’t to me. I was thinking along the lines of Michael Cunningham’s book:The Hours|11899]. Had I looked further, I would have noticed the clue that the author has also penned the Jane Austen Mysteries. Even though I have n...more
Pamela
This book combines the mystery of Virginia Woolf's suicide and the rumors surrounding the Cambridge Five, the Apostles. A modern garden designer, hoping to replicate the White Garden at Sissinghurst, tries to find the meaning behind her own grandfather's suicide. All documents lead back to the 18 days in April 1941 between Virginia Woolf's disappearance and the discovery of her body. Others in the Bloombury group lead eventually to a secret society of USSR informants, the Apostles. There is so m...more
Jody
I didn't even notice the author when I bought this book. Later I noticed it was Stephanie Barron who is a favorite of mine due to the Jane Austen mystery series. This one is a modern-day mystery but centered around Virginia Woolf. The main character is a professional gardener who goes to Sissinghurst to review the white garden for potential replication in one of her client's gardens. Sissinghurst was Vita Sackville-West's home (and gardens). Needless to say, there is the Virginia Woolf connectio...more
Margot Ayer
I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book very much. I spent time near Sissinghurst and the White Garden itself is something I've always wanted to replicate. That was what drew me to the book to begin with, though I am also interested in the Bloomsbury Group, and I have learned to relish Stephanie Barron's careful research and loving recreation of other times in her Jane Austen series.

The central mystery concerns Virginia Woolf's last days and the discovery of a diary/novel about those days by...more
Sara
As is so often the case, I pulled "The White Garden" from the shelf based mainly on its cover art and, fortunately, the story itself was just as lovely. The style pulled so much from its setting of English gardens and countryside; slow and meandering in the best possible way, akin to a stroll. The mystery - although not difficult to solve - is subtle with more focus placed on the lives of the characters than is usual for a mystery novel. In fact, even though this book was shelved in the mystery...more
Susan Tsiouris
The White Garden was a notch above your average tea cozy, but with a dose of references to Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury contemporaries, this turned out to be more interesting than expected. A touch of romance and even some ideas for you gardening enthusiasts make it worthwhile.
Kate
Starts out very slow, then picks up the pace in a Da Vinci Code sort of way one this notebook is found. It was an okay read but I really wasn't overly impressed with it. The divergence from history bugged me here for some reason when it normally wouldn't. I think the bit where it sort of cast Woolf as a victim annoyed me the most sine I see Woolf as a very strong woman and the novel sort of negated that.

Jo Bellamy might as well have been anyone else. I don't even really remember what she looks l...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Stephanie Barron was born Francine Stephanie Barron in Binghamton, NY in 1963, the last of six girls. Her father was a retired general in the Air Force, her mother a beautiful woman who loved to dance. The family spent their summers on Cape Cod, where two of the Barron girls...more
More about Stephanie Barron...
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (Jane Austen Mysteries, #1) Jane and the Man of the Cloth (Jane Austen Mysteries, #2) Jane and the Wandering Eye (Jane Austen Mysteries, #3) Jane and the Genius of the Place (Jane Austen Mysteries, #4) Jane and the Stillroom Maid (Jane Austen Mysteries, #5)

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