There’s a fighting chance that this week’s book review should actually be part of last week’s because they’re by the same writer and I read them in quick succession. Please don’t worry, I’ve now read everything Abbi Waxman has written, so there won’t be a follow up (although secretly, or not, I really wish that I could keep going). What I found out, when reading Abbi Waxman is that she raises my spirits and my happiness quotient. The Garden of Small Beginnings has me wanting to reach out and extend my abilities, to take up a Saturday morning gardening class, find enjoyment in growingthing and maybe (or primarily) along the way find a devastatingly gorgeous Dutchman. Plausible? No, but great fun to daydream about.
I’ve read Waxman’s novels in a totally mixed up order, which really doesn’t matter, except that the main character in The Garden of Small Beginnings, Lilian, also has a small but important role in The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. I find this to be charming. The idea of characters you love, continuing with their fictional lives, long after you close the pages of whatever novel it is that you’ve been enjoying.
So, what’s the book about? Well, Lilian’s husband died four years ago in a terrible traffic accident outside their house. Four years isn’t very long when you are trying to raise two young daughters, maintain your career as an illustrator and, generally speaking, have a life. Thankfully she is supported by her sister, Rachel, a more carefree character than Lilian and definitely someone everybody should know. When Lilian is asked to illustrate a book on vegetables, her company signs her up for a class. Along with her daughters, Rachel decides to join and there the family meets a wide variety of personalities with whom they become firm friends. Each week you dip in an out of the lives of these people, uncovering just a little more of the charming story.
Knowing what I know now, I would be hard pushed in a bookshop to choose between The Bookish Life of Nina Hill or The Garden of Small Beginnings, as they are both such great reads. I would suggest meeting Lilian before Nina, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, just so long as you enjoy both.