Book Review: Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Garden of Stars
Author - Rose Alexander
Publication Date - July 25th 2016
Publisher - Carina UK
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by author via NetGalley)

Blurb
The Alentejo, Portugal 1934
I am Ines Bretao and I am 18 years old. Now that I am finally an adult and soon to be married, I feel like my real life is about to begin. I have decided to document everything that happens to me, for my children and my grandchildren...

As Sarah Lacey reads the scrawled handwriting in her great-aunt's journal on a trip to Portugal, she discovers a life filled with great passion, missed chances and lost loves - memories that echo Sarah's own life. Because Sarah's marriage is crumbling, her love for her husband ebbing away, and she fears the one man she truly loves was lost to her many years ago...

But hidden within the faded pages of the journal is a secret Ines has kept locked away her entire life, and final message for her beloved niece - a chance for Sarah to change her life, if she is brave enough to take it.

Review
Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander was a beautifully poignant, richly-told story of love and loss. As soon as I began reading this one, I became lost to Alexander's vivid descriptions, which opened up the setting of Portugal to me in the most inviting of ways. Highly-emotive, tender and completely heart-warming, when I finished this book, I felt as if I'd lived a lifetime right beside the characters.


In Rose Alexander's Garden of Stars, readers are introduced to Sarah Lacey. As the story begins, Sarah is offered a commission in which she is to travel to Portugal, in order to capture a 5,000 word story surrounding cork, and its journey from tree to bottle. Seeking advice from her Great Aunt Ines who grew up and lived in the area, Sarah is surprised when she is handed an old journal, detailing Ines's early life in Portugal. Unsure as to why she's been given the journal, Sarah takes it with her as she heads back to the place she left so long ago, curious about what lies within. Little does she know, the past is about to rear it's head in the most surprising of ways.

Rose Alexander's descriptions were the first thing that struck me while reading this story. They were gorgeously real and vivid, in a way that had me feeling as if I were right there in Portugal with Sarah. From the heat and the blinding sun to the bleached buildings and the ocean. It was atmospheric and incredibly easy for me to lose myself in, and the history behind the cork itself was fascinating to learn of. I loved hearing of the place Ines grew up in through the use of her journal, and found myself conjuring up images in my mind, with the help of Alexander's details, of these stunning places. There was so much depth to this tale, and I felt the pages were full of culture not to be missed. It was a real joy to read, to soak it all up and imagine myself in Sarah's shoes. Ines's too!

Things really took an interesting turn when Ines's journal began to be read by Sarah. It was such a glorious step back in time, and learning of Ines's early life in Portugal had a certain dreamy quality to it that rubbed off on me completely. Readers learn of Ines's life after marriage and how things begin to change after time. It was bitter-sweet at times, but struck at my heart in the most moving of ways, leaving me close to tears numerous times. As Sarah continued to dip into Ines's journey throughout the progression of the novel, the similarities between the two women began to become clear to me, and I felt my excitement rising as I wondered just how Sarah would take this information and use it in her own life in the present day. This aspect of the novel was absolutely magical and I loved it. The use of Ines's journal felt tender and poignant, and only intensified as more secrets were revealed to Sarah. The bond between the two women didn't fail to capture my attention either. It was beautiful, and Rose focused fantastically on this.

Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander warmed me inside out. The setting of Portugal has never felt so alive to me until now, and the richness of Alexander's writing truly brought the place to life. The characters were wholesome and likeable, and centred around Ines's journal, swinging between the past and the present, I felt incredibly close to this story and the emotions wrapped within it.

Becca's Books is awarding Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander with four of my bookish cupcakes. I really can't wait to see what's coming next from this author. I, for one, will be keeping a keen eye out for more news on Rose Alexander's next release.


About the author

I've had more careers than I care to mention and am currently working full-time as a secondary school English teacher. I write in the holidays, weekends and evenings, whenever I have a chance, although with three children, a husband, a lodger and a cat, this isn't always as often as I'd like. My book is the result of much hard work, research and patience. The greatest reward possible would be my readers' enjoyment, so I hope it does it for you!

You can find Rose Alexander on Twitter | rosealexander.co.uk

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