Mo, the wealthy dictator of a volatile Middle Eastern country, enlists a ghostwriter to tell his story to the world and enshrine him in history as a glorious ruler. Inside Mo’s besieged palace the ghost forms an unlikely friendship with a wise and seemingly innocent Italian gardener who slowly reveals that the regime isn’t all it appears to be. As a violent rebellion threatens all their lives the ghost struggles to cope with a personal secret too painful to bear. Secrets of the Italian Gardener takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey through the bloody downfall of a doomed tyrant in the company of a young couple struggling to cope with the greatest private tragedy imaginable.
Welcome to my stop on the Secrets of the Italian Gardener blog tour! This little novella completely surprised me in the best way. It may only be 145 pages long, but it manages to explore a whole lot in that short period. It managed to keep me guessing the whole way though, and there was more than a few shock twists. If you’re looking for a quick read that will grip you from the get go, Secrets of the Italian Gardener will definitely be the book for you!
I think this book has a really interesting premise. Mo is a wealthy dictator of a country dealing with civil unrest, who hires a ghostwriter in order to tell his story. He lives in a beautiful palace, and I found the depictions of the beautiful gardens versus the sounds of explosions and gunfire really striking. There is that sense of unease that lingers throughout the ghost writer’s time in the palace. There is definitely more going on than meets the eye, and he is unable to find out more due to the extreme amount of security. The writing is really beautiful, and it definitely keeps the reader wanting more. The books characters are all extremely well portrayed, from Mo, the elusive dictator who only wants the good aspects of his character to come out, to Caroline, the wife of the main character. I really liked Lo, who was once Mo’s second in command, but decided that life as a gardener was much simpler.
For such a short novella, the book deals with a lot of different themes. It deals with grief, and the loss of a family member and what that does to those left behind. It also deals with political unrest, and what happens when a country needs to see change in their systems. But most importantly, Secrets of the Italian Gardner deals with family and friendships, and how these are the most important things in life, far more than money, fame and success. I also found it really interesting that Crofts managed to slip in a discussion on the morals of taking such a job as ghostwriting the autobiography of a wealthy dictator. The character’s wife Caroline scoffs and suggests he shouldn’t take it, they only want him for his credible reputation, however he takes it, which raises the question of how far someone will go for a large sum of money, even if it is outwith their beliefs.
Secrets of the Italian Gardener is a very powerful novel, and one that stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. I wasn’t as keen on the ending of the book as I was the rest of the story, but I think that was partly because it was the complete opposite of what I expected to happen. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and it is probably my favourite piece of literary fiction that I’ve read this year. A powerful and thought provoking book!
Thanks for checking out my stop on the Secrets of the Italian Gardener blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!