Review by Deb Czajkowski
Jess Penhaligon has won the prestigious David Porteous’ Botanical Painting Award for Young Artists. Now Jess is on her way to Devon to receive the award from David’s widow, Kate, who has invited Jess to stay with her for the summer. Jess is excited about winning this award, grateful to Kate for her friendly graciousness and, oddly, she thinks, eagerly anticipating the extended stay for reasons yet unknown.
Having just graduated from college, Jess views this most welcome summer-stay invitation as indeed opportune. Going home or, more correctly, to her mother’s home, is not an option. Jess’s father died eight years ago, leaving her, an only child, feeling lost and alone. Jess’s mother quickly remarried, a diplomat, and moved to Brussels. Jess’s only other known relatives are her grandparents (her dad’s parents), in Australia, two people she has only seen a few times in her entire life. Even then, her grandmother was not the warm, cookie-baking kind, and her kind and playful grandfather is, like her father, now gone.
Her mother and stepfather are surely impressed with Jess’s winning the Young Artist award. Still, her didactic stepfather claims that painting is a lovely hobby, something she can do in her spare time, whereas teaching is a solid foundation on which to build her future. And her always anxious, often stern mother pushes Jess to heed her stepfather’s sound “voice of experience.” Jess listens patiently to his pontificating and then happily disregards it all as she boards her train.
Arriving in Devon, Jess knows that this prominent award is the encouragement Jess longed for to chance pursuing a career as an artist rather than her former plan to teach. True, it’s a risky move, but it’s also where her heart is. And then there is that mysterious pull she feels as she meets Kate and settles in. Pull toward what? Or whom? Her past? Her future? Suddenly Jess feels that she’s not alone, no longer so lonely. How can that be when all of these new faces are those of strangers? Or are they?
After reading the first few chapters of author Marcia Willett’s book, The Sea Garden, I wondered, “Why was this title chosen? I’m not seeing its significance, its relevance.” Now, having completed my journey with Jess, I smile and nod, knowing it’s the perfect choice.
Marcie Willet cleverly plants, sows, and weaves her story, a story that encompasses generations, friendships, mysteries, and secrets. To meet the author’s characters is to know them, to understand them, to care about them. Willet’s book is truly a painting of words, clearly depicting the Sea Garden, complete with the ghosts of the past and the visions of the future. I highly recommend it, particularly if you can read it sitting by the sea!
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About the Author:
Marcia began her career as a novelist when she was fifty years old. Until then she had been an avid reader and had never considered writing. When her writer husband, Rodney, suggested that she should—she laughed and dismissed the whole thing out of hand. However, after months of nagging she agreed, for the sake of peace and quiet, to see what she could do.
Eventually, she handed Rodney the manuscript of her first novel and said, ‘Right, I’ve written it—now you sell it’. So he did.
Since that first novel Marcia has written twenty more under her own name as well as a number of short stories. She has also written four books under the pseudonym ‘Willa Marsh.’ She is, as you would expect, working on another novel.
Success has not been limited to this country: she is now published in sixteen other countries - with contracts for books to be published in two others - and has been in the bestseller lists of both Germany and Greece.
So how should her books be described?
Marcia is a born storyteller and her books are beautifully written which makes them easy to read. Even so, they will challenge the thoughtful as they deal with the eternal problems that face everyone and often call for great strength of character if they are to be overcome.
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