The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

Perusing my local independent book shop, I almost overlooked this book. Why? Because the cover is flowery, and I’m the very opposite of a flowery person. If I can tell a daisy from a daffodil, it’s a good day. The old saying tells us to never judge a book by its cover, and I’m reaping the rewards of eventually listening to my inner voice and purchasing this book.

Oh my goodness.

‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’ by Holly Ringland is bursting at the seams with vivid and vibrant sensory driven imagery – it’s an explosion of colour and a real treat for the imagined senses.

I was particularly drawn to the setting of Australia. I travelled there in 2008 and was so entranced by the country, its history and its vast and contrasting landscape that I was inspired to base my English Literature dissertation on the construction of a national identity through Australian literature. I therefore found the contrast of settings (coast, country and desert) to be a real treat and I loved the diversity of the female characters. Twig in particular I feel has her own story to tell that is only touched upon here…. perhaps she’ll get her own stand-alone novel!?

I was inspired by the use of fairy tales throughout. Definitely not just for children, they are full of darkness and often display the worst parts of human nature, something the novel pulls upon throughout. It really had me thinking of the messages conveyed beyond the ‘happy ending’.

The central setting is the flower farm, which I’m sure being called ‘Thornfield’ is no accident, and I did find myself drawing comparisons with many themes within Jane Eyre and I enjoyed the nod to gothic literature with the bell tower for a bedroom. It sets the scene for love, betrayal and secrets as well as serving as a refuge and sanctuary. It is family history which drives the narrative forward however, what has happened in the past recycling and affecting the present. It’s a story about women; their choices, their resilience and ultimately, it’s about facing the past and owning it in order to survive.

It is one of the most gorgeous stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Ever. I loved Alice Hart, I wanted to be her friend, cry with her, laugh with her, shout at her to make her see sense at times. It’s the kind of novel that you put down and continue to think about long after and returning to it feels as if you’re being enveloped in a motherly hug. It is one that will be staying on my bookshelf and revisited in years to come. It’s a resounding 5/5 from me.

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Synopsis

When tragedy changes her life irrevocably, nine-year old Alice Hart goes to live with the grandmother she never knew existed, on a native flower farm that gives refuge to women who, like Alice, are lost or broken. In the Victorian tradition, every flower has a meaning and, as she settles into her new life, Alice uses this language of flowers to say the things that are too hard to speak.

As she grows older, family secrecy, a devastating betrayal and a man who’s not all he seems combine to make Alice realise there are some stories that flowers alone cannot tell. If she is to have the freedom she craves, she must find the courage to possess the most powerful story she knows: her own.

 

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