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The White Garden

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The White Garden by Stephanie Barron
Paperback $17.00
Sep 29, 2009 | ISBN 9780553385779

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Product Details


“Barron is a master at crafting English period pieces.”—Denver Post

The White Garden grows an intriguing tale, weaving together the tendrils of past and present, growth and corruption, love and despair, into a landscape of hope. This is a mystery in a garden: a garden in war; a garden beset by modernity; a ghostly white garden haunted by the dead.”  —Laurie R. King, author of The Language of Bees

“Stephanie Barron has concocted a delicious exploration of what could have happened to Virginia Woolf in the weeks between her disappearance and the day her body floated to the surface of the river Ouse. Part mystery, part a search for redemption, The White Garden will entrance readers from the moment they open it.”  —Tasha Alexander, author of And Only to Deceive

Author Q&A

A Note from the Author

LAWRENCE BLOCK ONCE FAMOUSLY SAID THAT fiction writing is nothing more than “telling lies for fun and profit.” I have a habit of making things up, quite often about people who lived perfectly good lives of their own, people who would be furious to think they were the objects of my embellishment–Jane Austen, Queen Victoria, Virginia Woolf. But then these people, whose every word and act already seemed part of the public domain, died. And my imagination had its way with them. 

The White Garden is a case in point. The idea for it took hold during a particularly bleak period in my life when I seemed to be writing only about death and violence. People I loved were dying, too. My mother began her slow descent into the terrible losses of Alzheimer’s disease–she remained present, but increasingly unrecognizable. One night, her old self came to me in a dream, as it often does, and my aunt–a horticulture judge who loved gardens– was with her. My aunt had been gone for years, but the two of them were arm in arm, companionable and chatty as always, and they were intending to walk around Sissinghurst. Come out into the garden, Francie, they said; and so I followed them into the White Garden. 

There’s something restorative in writing about growing things when the world is dying around you. I imagine that Vita Sackville-West understood this, and that it is one of the reasons she survived so many upheavals–and perhaps a reason that Virginia Woolf could not. In thinking about these two women, and their relationship to such things as words, and flowers, and violence, I was riveted by a singular moment in their long mutual friendship–the moment it was broken forever, the moment they literally fell out of touch on the banks of the River Ouse. The three weeks that elapsed between Virginia Woolf’s disappearance and the discovery of her body must have been difficult ones for everyone who loved her, Vita in particular. That period of silence, of unknowing, was tantalizing to me; I began to consider an alternative in which things were different, the inversion of what history believes to be true.

 The White Garden is fiction, all the same. I hope its readers will enjoy exploring the possibilities it suggests, and forgive its inevitable license. 

Anyone wishing to learn more about Sissinghurst should immediately obtain a copy of Adam Nicolson’s book by that name (Sissinghurst, HarperCollins U.K., 2008), the most heartfelt, poignant, and lyric tribute to home that anyone could possibly write. 

Francine Mathews 
aka Stephanie Barron 
Denver, Colorado 
July 29, 2009 

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