Literary Fiction: The Savage Garden, by Mark Mills

The Savage GardenMetamorphosis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cambridge student Adam Strickland is handed the opportunity of a lifetime, a two week trip to Tuscany to study the 17th century garden at the Villa Docci. Never before studied, it’s the perfect thesis topic. When he arrives, Adam finds both villa and garden enchanting, and somehow mysterious. The elderly Signora Docci and her granddaughter Antonella are equally charming. But as Adams delves into the garden’s many enigmatic features, he begins to question the reasons behind its design. The garden is not, it seems, a tribute to a lovely wife who died too young. And there’s something strange about the Docci family, whose son Emilio was killed by the Germans on the villa’s upper story, now shuttered, locked, and unused. Delving into Dante and Ovid, Adam is determined to ferret out the hidden messages that he’s convinced underlie the selection and arrangement of statuary within the garden. He also sets out to discover the facts concerning Emilio’s murder, nearly ending up murdered himself.

Author Mills’ depiction of 1950’s Tuscany is a vivid one. Thematically, he weaves together art, poetry, and history with polish, and his characters shine. And the denouement comes as a complete surprise. Superlative literary mystery, highly recommended.

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