The garden opens a space for safety and healing
The Twilight Garden is the latest novel written by Sara Nisha Adams and is a delight to read.
It is the second novel written by Sara, following her debut novel, The Reading ListI, and is described by Harper Collins as a:
“Life-affirming story of small spaces, small pleasures & blossoming friendships.”
The uplifting novel follows the story of a community coming back to life, with Sara Nish Adams’ brilliant writing creating a wonderful sanctuary in a small pocket of Stoke Newington.
DESIblitz looks at the array of themes present in The Twilight Garden and what makes it such an enthralling read.
A Community Lost and Found
The Twilight Garden revolves around a community coming back to life and the beauty and importance of friendships and relationships within this community.
Sara introduces us to the residents of Eastbourne Road in Stoke Newington, London, through different narratives from past to present occupants.
She creates a picture of a vibrant community that has lost its way and lacks real connection beyond surface-level interactions.
However, with powerful storytelling throughout the novel, Sara unites a wayward community by repairing broken relationships and forging new character connections.
We are introduced to various people throughout the novel who make up a diverse set of characters.
The novel begins by introducing us to lonesome Winston and his absent partner Lewis who live at number 79, in an end terrace house on Eastbourne Road.
We are also introduced to the enigmatic, recently divorced Bernice who lives next door to Winston and is not so fondly nicknamed the “Queen of Sheba” by him.
Winston and Bernice argue throughout much of the novel.
They are at loggerheads over their shared garden space which is an important motif throughout the story.
Other interesting characters throughout the novel include loveable shop owner Sal, the memorable old lady Jenny, Winston’s estranged partner Lewis, and many others.
The array of characters presented throughout the rest of The Twilight Garden paints a diverse yet at times dysfunctional community.
They represent different cultures, sexualities, and races, therefore reflecting the diverse population in society.
Despite being a community-oriented novel with a variety of vibrant individuals, the theme of loneliness is something that shines.
It is predominantly through the character of Winston that we see how important loneliness is in the book.
We get to see Winston’s character and perspective for much of the novel.
And, despite being surrounded by the community, Winston appears to be one of the loneliest characters.
We initially meet Winston as a disgruntled neighbour whose only solace appears to be smoking alone in the overgrown shared garden.
As the novel progresses, we learn more about Winston’s disgruntled nature and why he is the way he is.
The loneliness Winston feels at the start of the novel is dramatically changed by the end.
This is due to his newfound sense of belonging within the community and fresh friendships.
The way in which Sara develops Winston’s character throughout The Twilight Garden is exquisitely done.
She creates a character that is ultimately real and endures the same ordeals that real humans do by hinting at his mental health struggles and loneliness.
Rather than creating a character that feels unrealistic, Sara shows Winston as a layered human who may appear lonely and grumpy but is capable of powerful emotions.
Winston’s character becomes more than a protagonist within this story as his loneliness, though upsetting, is a relatable aspect.
Winston’s loneliness thereby becomes a reflection of the imperfection of human nature which readers may find makes the story more expressive.
The shared community garden is a major motif throughout this story as hinted by the novel’s name.
The Twilight Garden is the space where the Eastbourne Road community is rebuilt and reconnected and becomes a magical space for people to thrive.
It is also a source of connection for the two neighbours at war, Winston and Bernice, whose initial hostility leaves the garden a neglected space.
This is soon to be transformed as they find common ground by planting seeds and nurturing the actual ground of their shared garden.
The garden opens a space for safety and healing, for Winston and Bernice who through nurturing their garden learn to appreciate each other and bond over heartache.
Sara’s descriptions of the garden as a “battleground” at the start of the novel reflect the hostility of the neighbours who share it.
However, this “battleground” is soon turned into a sanctuary that holds happiness.
This transformation of the garden reflects the arc of characters throughout, especially Winston who transforms from grumpy to likeable.
Sara’s depiction of these characters reclaiming their garden and restoring it back to life is wonderfully written as the characters themselves can restore and repair their own lives in the process.
This is just one aspect of the novel where Sara uses the garden and its natural metaphors to draw parallels and mirror the human experiences of her characters.
Natural metaphors like these make the novel an exceptionally entertaining read as it connects readers with the natural world.
Power of Past and Present
One of the many appealing aspects of this novel is its dual timeline as it interweaves and flits between the past and present of the Eastbourne Road community.
By exploring the history of the community and its garden, Sara gifts readers with a solid background to the main plot and ignites their intrigue.
When Winston and Bernice receive mysterious letters and emails in the present, they are immediately connected to the garden’s past.
As readers, we are then introduced to the previous residents of the shared garden in the 70s – Maya and Alma, who are also a delight to read and interpret.
For many South Asians and other minority groups who migrated to England in the 70s, they may even relate to the characterisations of Maya and her husband Prem.
Prem and Maya are characters who migrated from Mombasa, Kenya in search of better job opportunities and a better life in England.
Therefore, there are moments in this story where the past becomes ever more poignant and reflective of human history.
Some of the themes within the past timeline include migration, discrimination, and grief.
Whilst the novel is slightly slow-paced, the power of the past and present timelines is enough to maintain intrigue for readers.
Sara tells a heart-warming and uplifting story of how a community is and becomes connected by interweaving between past and present and witnessing parallels between the two unfold.
The Twilight Garden creates and describes a utopia, that is possible to create within one small community.
All it takes is a community coming together, the seeds of an idea, and blossoming love and friendships.
The novel is simply a gem of work and is beautifully written by Sara to tell a story that will be sure to tug at your heartstrings.
Check out Sara’s dazzling latest novel here.