The Garden

Books on Tape. Apr. 2024. 9:13 hrs. ISBN 9780593821305. $76. F
World War II is over, and Irene is desperate to have a child. After five miscarriages, a now-pregnant Irene agrees to stay at a manor-turned-hospital, run by a married doctor couple in the Berkshires. The doctors are on a mission to help women struggling to bear children, but their medical practices are unclear and ever-changing. At the clinic, Irene is disturbed by the constant observation and strict guidelines and is not afraid to voice her opinions. When she stumbles across a secret garden with mystical powers on the grounds of the hospital, she and two fellow patients grapple with how far they are each willing to go to have a child. Soon they begin toying with an unknown force and face dire consequences. Carlotta Brentan gives varied voices to the cast of characters, with her most impressive performance being the prickly and outspoken Irene, emphasizing her exhaustion and pessimism from her continuous disappointment and distrust of the doctors’ methods.
VERDICT Beam’s (The Illness Lesson) latest is an unsettling psychological novel about motherhood, childbirth, and bodily autonomy. Rooted in carefully considered historical and social contexts, this slow-burn includes a tinge of surrealism and will entice listeners who enjoy stories that are left open to the audience’s interpretation.
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