Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: The Beast's Garden

The Beast's Garden
by Kate Forsyth

Pages: 429, paperback

Publication: August 3rd, 2015, Random House Australia

Source: library

A retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany 
Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realise that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realisation comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him, and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.The Beast's Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.

I'm a huge fan of Kate Forsyth, so I was eagerly awaiting this release.

At first I was a bit weary about this, thinking it would romanticise Nazism, but thankfully--and this is not a spoiler, it's on the back of the book--the nazi soldier is a spy working to assassinate Hitler.

As always, her writing is gorgeous, though this time I noticed that she used colours to describe noises, and noises to describe colours, which I found artistic and appealing, since the main character, Ava, is a singer.

But unfortunately, the story failed to grip me. It felt like a traditional romance from the 80's: I love him, but he's a monster, but he's actually just a good guy after all. (The amount of bodice rippers I read with that sort of plot structure is ridiculous).

Despite my qualms with it, it was a good book. With her gorgeous prose, and her main characters (the rest of the characters got lost in a jumble of German sounds in my head, unfortunately), this book really was a beauty. It's just not something I'd expected after Bitter Greens or Wild Girl. It showed the war within Germany, showing how Germans treated each other during the war: the betrayal, the loss, the unknowing terror. I was mesmerised by how much pain this book showed in both the camps--where most WW2 books are set--and within the very world it all started.

As for the Beauty and the Beast retelling, you'll find none of that here. He was never a beast, it was always love at first sight, blah blah blah.

The end was rushed, a swift storm of telling instead of showing which gave me vertigo after Ava's impossible and intense show of bravery.

I'm confused as to how I feel about it. On the one hand, it's a Kate Forsyth book; on the other, it just didn't make me feel much.

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