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15 Literary Gardens to Explore

Amy Hendricks is a corporate marketing assistant at Simon and Schuster. She is a friend to animals, and a lover of old books, pancakes, and being in or near water.

In literature, there’s something both magical and symbolic about gardens. They can be unkempt and wild, harboring secrets and failures, or brimming with well-maintained life, the beauty of the plants as radiant as the hearts of their caretakers. We’ve collected a colorful and varied bouquet of fifteen books set amidst gardens both real and imagined.

The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton
Kate Morton’s cross-generational story is a twisting journey to find the secrets behind the walls of a garden at the edges of a once-great estate. Each new discovery is a delightful surprise in a touching and enchanting novel.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
Though the garden in this story is referring to a famous Southern cemetery, there is no lack of mystique in this true tale of the murder of a local male prostitute in the historic city of Savannah.

Winter Garden
by Kristin Hannah

The bond between a mother and her daughters is put on an emotional display in this enduring novel. Two sisters come together at the request of their dying father to hear their distant mother's whole story, and they learn the haunting truth of her life.

In the Garden of Beasts
by Erik Larson

Berlin in 1933 captivates a young woman whose father is America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. As Martha gets swept up in the parties and society lifestyle, Hitler’s reign is starting to expand its reach, culminating in a violent reveal of his true nature.

The Garden of Evening Mists
by Tan Twan Eng

For Yun Ling Teoh, gardening is a way to rediscover her sense of self and try to atone for the survivor’s guilt she feels after losing her sister during their time in a Japanese internment camp. Brimming with intrigue, Tan Twan Eng’s second novel delves into the history, cultures, and injustices of World War II, and how life goes on for some in the aftermath.

The Bone Garden
by Tess Gerritsen

Unknown bones, untold stories, and unsolved crimes from the distant past cast ominous shadows in this suspenseful thriller. From a 1830s medical student pilfering graves to harvest the dead for sale, to the present-day discovery of a human skull in a rural Massachusetts garden; a dark mystery is traced through centuries and culminates in an ingenious and shocking finale.

The Cement Garden
by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s first novel of psychological suspense details what happens to four siblings who are left alone after both their parents die. With the absence of adults and structure, the children attempt to govern themselves, but their path of self-preservation is as complex and wrought as the garden their father obsessively built.

The Rose Garden
by Susanna Kearsley

A historically well-tended garden of roses acts as an anchor for time-traveling heroine Eva Ward, who has returned home to Cornwall to spread the ashes of her recently deceased sister. While there, she finds she can easily slip into the estate’s past, where she has a hard time deciding which century she would like to live in.

The Garden of Eden
by Ernest Hemingway
In Hemingway’s posthumously published novel, a couple on their honeymoon falls in love with the same woman. What results is a rich cast of characters challenging the conventional roles of Adam and Eve in a seemingly perfect paradise on the Côte d’Azur in the 1920s.

Garden Spells
by Sarah Addison Allen

Generations of women in the Waverley family have been responsible for an enchanted garden behind their North Carolina home. It's now Claire’s turn to tend to the magical fruits and flowers that enhance the lives of all around her. But upon the return of her sister, Sydney, with a young daughter in tow, Claire must reevaluate her powers and what she wants from her life.

The Garden of Letters
by Alyson Richman

This clever and sweet World War II novel set in Italy follows a young cellist who worked as a spy for the Resistance movement. When she flees to Portofino, she is taken in by a doctor reeling from the loss of his family. Their stories are a beautiful portrayal of the emotion, heroism, and romance that flourish despite the consequences of war.

The Lavender Garden
by Lucinda Riley

An inherited chateau with vineyards and intrigue abound takes center stage in this captivating novel chronicling a woman’s attempts to understand the deeply embedded history of her old estate. Jumping from World War II to present day in the south of France, the secrets of the old house help bring a family’s history to light.

The Red Garden
by Alice Hoffman
A mysterious garden where only red plants grow is the centerpiece of this sweeping novel, which explores more than three hundred years in a small Massachusetts town. Weaving magic and history, Alice Hoffman’s spellbinding look at small town America is not to be missed.

The Garden of Burning Sand
by Corban Addison

A change of scenery from most other books on this list, Corban Addison’s thrilling novel takes place throughout Africa. An American lawyer working to end child sexual assault in Zambia embarks on a tense journey to solve the case of a victim whose identity remains a mystery. Aided by a Zambian police officer, her investigation culminates in a striking realization.

The Garden of Last Days
by Andre Dubus III

A young mother’s decision to bring her child to the strip club where she works is the catalyst for a series of sharp turns and gripping intrigue. The supporting characters in this thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat and anxiously turning pages until the last reveal.

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