The White Garden: A Novel of Virginia Woolf
Stephanie Barron, . . Bantam, $15 (326pp) ISBN 978-0-553-38577-9
Barron, a pseudonym for thriller writer Francine Mathews, puts her talents for suspense to good use examining the death of Virginia Woolf from the vantage point of present-day England. The story begins when American Jo Bellamy sets out to study the White Garden at the estate of Virginia Woolf's lover, working for Long Island clients who want to recreate it. Her mission also has a personal component: figuring out why Jo's beloved grandfather, who worked at the garden as a youth, killed himself. After the head gardener passes Jo a journal he found in the tool shed, which may be Woolf's work, Jo embarks upon a wild tour of Woolf's old stomping grounds, tracking down answers and missing pages. While leaning on convenient stereotypes—the headstrong but clueless American; the femme fatale (with eyes like “liquid pools”); stuffy Brits—Barron invests the text with a quick pace and an absorbing plot, making this a dynamic thriller with a well-tempered literary fixation.
Reviewed on: 08/10/2009