21 March 2015

Book Review: Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

"Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Ivy Lane as a paperback or an eBook now.

One book I have really been looking forward to reading this year is the debut novel from author Cathy Bramley. I didn't read it in four parts like many other bloggers did, instead I chose to wait for the whole thing to devour it all together. I'm so pleased that I did, because it was a brilliant novel from start to finish, and I didn't want to put it down. It was one of those cosy books, where you feel like you're in the middle of the story with the characters, I genuinely cared about them and was sad to finish it.

Tilly isn't exactly a keen gardener, but when the opportunity comes to have her own allotment, she decides it might be just what she needs to start afresh. Tilly starts to make friends at the Ivy Lane allotments pretty quickly, and soon starts to settle in, growing her own vegetables and preparing her patch for more throughout the year. Tilly's left a painful past behind, and she's determined that she isn't going to divulge to her newfound friends, instead letting them judge for who she is now, not what has happened to her. But as things start to change for Tilly, she realises she might need to let people in more than she had though, especially when it's do with matters of the heart...

I want to say straight away how much I loved Tilly, she was the perfect heroine for the book and I loved reading about her story. What happened in Tilly's past remains secret for much of the book, but I had a pretty good idea from the hints that came about in the earlier parts of the book. Tilly, though, is trying to move on and a new hobby seems to be just what she needs. I loved how Tilly made friends with the other gardeners, regardless of who they were, and just tried her hardest when it came to her allotment, even though she wasn't always very good at growing anything! She was such a kind-hearted woman, and when her past is revealed, my heart broke for her, it was a really sad part of the book.

As well as Tilly though, it was the collection of characters within this book which made it so readable. Tilly's new best friend Gemma is hilarious, a beautician turned allotment aficionado, and is certainly larger than life in the book, trying to cheer up Tilly whenever she has the chance; there's hunky young gardener Charlie, who seems more than a little sweet on Tilly for her liking, and many more fellow gardeners too. There's a particularly poignant and touching scene involving Alf, another allotment owner, that had me in tears, it was so beautifully written.  I loved reading everything about the allotments, from the people to the plants they grew, to the gatherings they all held together. It was such a brilliant little community, I really wanted to be part of it!

The book takes place over the period of a year, and is divided up into four seasons, working its way from Spring to Winter. It wasn't just plants growing throughout the year, it was the character of Tilly too, becoming stronger as the year went on and she became more settled in her new home. Cathy Bramley's writing was fantastic, writing the development of this character and intertwining it with the lives and goings-on at the Ivy Lane allotment. Throw in a surprise TV show, community service people and a good few fundraisers along the way, and there's a lot packed into this story to enjoy. I loved it from the first page until the last, and was so sad to finish this book, I didn't want to leave these characters behind. This book is a triumph for Cathy Bramley, and I can't wait to read her next.

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