Voices in the Garden

Voices in the Garden

3.59 (37 ratings by Goodreads)
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Set in one of the last great villas of the 1920s on Cape Ferrat, in cosmopolitan London, and in the home of a landed German family within the shadow of the wall. The novel is a human comedy, as well as a compassionate story of mature and immature love.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 111.76 x 177.8 x 25.4mm | 1,065.94g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 0140172432
  • 9780140172430

Review Text

In A Gentle Occupation (1980), Bogarde's military-life setting - British-occupied postwar Indonesia - provided a sturdy, historically resonant counterpoint to some exquisitely sentimental relationships. Here, however, the setting is an oasis of fading elegance in the south of France - which makes for a rather more precious, pastel-on-pastel entertainment. Bogarde's hero is Marcus Pollock, the young, quite gorgeous, cast-off son of two failed British actors; he now works for a London company which rents props for photographers and cinema; and on the side he's a nude model for a discreet studio serving "clients of particular interests." But then, in France, Marcus just happens to rescue Lady Peverill - known as "Cuckoo" and still "smashing" at 68 - from an attempted suicide-by-drowning (because of bad news from a London doctor). And, after swearing secrecy, Marcus is welcomed to the Peverills' Villa Tritton by repentant Cuckoo and her 70-year-old husband Archie - a fine, trim, scholarly historian who identifies with Napoleon and is thrilled by Marcus' resemblance to Napoleon's only son, "L'Aiglon." Also welcomed to the villa is Marcus' girl, Leni Minx, a wan German waif who has her secret: she's really the Countess Luisa von Lansfeld, but she's in the grip of a non-guilt-ridden, non-German fantasy life, sharing Marcus' flat, sardines, and saltines. And all these fantasizers are soon joined by a yacht-load of celluloid illusionists: fascistic, smooth-flanked director Umberto Grottorosso, who's doing a L'Aiglon flick; his inadequate L'Aiglon, a mild hunk named Wolf; busty star Sylva; assorted supporting players; and Grottorosso's American aunt Minerva, a straight-shooting oracle who announces that Wolf "comes off the screen like melted tar." So, as a picnic ensues (the food is a veritable poem), Grottorosso stalks a new star in Marcus, via a "rape" by Sylva; and back at sea the director, now smitten with the possibilities of a lustier L'Aiglon, carves up Wolf. But Marcus will take an appropriate revenge, Cuckoo will have a few last fabulous flights of excitement. . . and little Leni will Tell All. Bogarde's narration this time leans toward the too-too clever ("the table cloths flew about the garden like demented nuns"), and the often-bitchy dialogue is sometimes over-sequinned: "You are mad, you know, completely mad"/"Oh, I know and it is so marvelous." But for those not fussed by the super-mannered, near-camp sensibility, it's a funny, bright, and lusciously decadent diversion. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

37 ratings
3.59 out of 5 stars
5 19% (7)
4 32% (12)
3 38% (14)
2 11% (4)
1 0% (0)
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