Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Book Review: "The Savage Garden"

In his second novel, The Savage Garden (2007, Putnam), Mark Mills takes us back to postwar Tuscany, where Cambridge undergraduate Adam Strickland undertakes as his thesis project the analysis of an enigmatic Renaissance memorial garden. He quickly discovers that there's much more to the garden than meets the eye, and also - naturally - becomes involved with the complicated family dramas of his host family as their past actions catch up with them.

The novel is noteworthy for its examination of literary symbology (Ovid, Dante, and the Greek myths abound), and for the plot twists, some of which were unexpected and therefore quite welcome. I found myself wishing that Mills had included more from the Renaissance-era events which led to the creation of the garden in the first place, but perhaps creating the 'unfulfilled urge to know more' was part of Mills' plan from the outset.

This book has been compared to Iain Pears' work - I don't think it rises to Pears' level in Fingerpost or Scipio, but it is comparable to the Argyll mysteries.