Best Book Reviews:The Memory Tree | Linda Gillard

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Book Review on The Memory Tree by Linda Gillard

Can the power of love overcome life’s darkest memories and deepest losses? The Memory Tree is the perfect balance of light and dark, romance and mystery to enthrall even the most demanding reader and you will need a little supply of tissues tucked up your sleeve when you settle down beneath The Trysting tree.

When her favourite beech tree is felled in a storm, Ann feels as if someone has died. But when long-hidden seed packets are found inside the trunk, Ann realizes there are more memories than her own lurking within the ancient tree…

A century earlier, head gardener William Hatherwick and Hester Mordaunt, mistress of Beechgrave, share a love for the mighty estate—and an undeclared love for each other. But when war breaks out, William is sent to the battlefields of France, and as the conflict rages on, Hester grieves beneath the tree. Can she and William ever find happiness once he’s witnessed the horror of the trenches?

In the present day, historian Connor Grenville wants to understand why his late grandmother tried to destroy Hester’s archive before she died. Who was she trying to protect —and why? His findings bring long-suppressed memories back to Ann’s mind…

Beneath the shadow of the tree, love is won and lost, and secrets are hidden and revealed. Will the truth heal the wounds that lie buried in the past?

Revised edition: Previously published as The Trysting Tree, this edition of The Memory Tree includes editorial revisions.

The Memory Tree


Top review from India

Olivia Thirumalai

The Memory Tree. Reviewed in India on 12 February 2020


Top reviews from other countries

Welsh Annie
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting…

The Memory Tree. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 June 2016

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Now I don’t know about you, but that description made me say “I love it” before I’d even read the first page. This book had so many elements I love to find in any book I read. First of all, there’s the dual time element – a modern story of a family with a mystery in its past, a story spanning the First World War, linked by setting and a shared history. I particularly loved the way the earlier story was told – real time, readings from diaries, letters, sometimes even by the trees themselves. Both stories are complex and engaging, exploring love and loss and set against a vividly drawn backdrop, deep in natural detail and rich in atmosphere.

In the modern story, there’s a wonderfully drawn mother-daughter relationship – the character of mother Phoebe is particularly well developed, her loss of movement and inability to paint very poignantly described, her difficult personality and absence of mothering instinct perfectly drawn. I loved Hester in the earlier story too – struggling with the pressure of expectation and convention, with a strong clear voice. The love story of old and the one of the present day are intensely moving and totally absorbing – and the complex plot, full of secrets, within which the love stories sit twists and turns with ease, deftly handled by a writer fully in control of her craft.

If you’ve read Linda Gillard’s work before, you’ll be enchanted by this one. If you haven’t – well, this really wouldn’t be a bad place to start.


5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional, romantic and mysterious dual time novel

The Memory Tree. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 September 2016

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The Memory Tree is a very emotional dual time romance combined with an intriguing family mystery which spans 100 years.

Modern day – divorcee Ann moves into her parents old house to care for her ailing, infirm and seemingly uncaring, artist mother Phoebe, and begins to restore the ancient garden with the help of aspiring landscape enthusiast and amateur genealogist Connor. This modern day story explores the difficulty of strained relationships between mother and daughter, and how the past can never really be put behind us.

Ann and Connor find an affinity and share similar pasts, and the irascible Phoebes interest is sparked by the story of Connors family history, linked to the women home and which he is keen to unravel especially since his grandma Ivy died trying to conceal something, there are hints at the nature of the mystery but not at all the heartache and tragedy which we watch unfold.

When an ancient tree is felled and releases a cache of hidden seed packets each holding a hidden secret the past begins to catch up with the present in a series of parallels and coincidences.

Last century – Hester is betrothed to the dull Walter but her interest in nature and gardens ignites an unlikely and forbidden friendship with the gardener at her family home.

I loved the parts of this story set in the past, even more than the present day events. I found Ann a rather difficult character to warm to at first, whereas as soon as Hester was introduced the book livened up and I felt an affinity with this young woman struggling to be what society expects of her yet follow her own instincts too. Her story becomes more poignant with the outbreak of world war one and the painful legacy this dreadful war bequeaths this family. Ann grew on me gradually like a seed germinating in the murky soil of secrets and concealment.

The author has her own unique style which I first discovered in the wonderful Star Gazing, she creates an unlikely heroine of mature years with a pretty ordinary life and a few flaws and weaves a fascinating and gripping story around her. She undoubtedly draws on her own life experiences, I’m not telling tales out of school if I mention the authors own experiences, fighting and winning, then recovering from cancer, which are skilfully woven into the fabric of this book.

This is just one of several dark and deep themes this novel explores, Linda Gillard isn’t frightened to write about difficult subjects with ease and authority, yet a thread of humour and lightness lifts the mood. A lovely read for new and existing fans of Ms Gillard and aficionados of the dual time romance.

I received a voucher to obtain this book (The Memory Tree) free of charge for review purposes and this is my true and unbiased opinion.

It’s the perfect balance of light and dark, romance and mystery to enthrall even the most demanding reader and you will need a little supply of tissues tucked up your sleeve when you settle down beneath The Trysting tree.


5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me up till 2am…

The Memory Tree. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 May 2016

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I’ve been waiting very (im)patiently for Linda Gillard’s latest release, and it did not disappoint. As always, the characters are artfully realised and the story catches you from the first page, with the sense of mystery and foreboding I’ve come to associate with so many of her novels – you simultaneously can’t wait to discover what’s to come, but dread the knowledge at the same time. I couldn’t put it down, staying awake till the wee hours to find out the forgotten histories of the two families that are interwoven throughout the story, and then couldn’t sleep thinking about it afterwards: Ann, Hester, Phoebe, William and Ivy stayed with me for quite some time.

It’s hard to pick particular highlights, but the contrasting characterisations of Hester and Phoebe were, for some reason, the ones that resonated with me most: the former for wonderfully capturing what it must have been like to be an intelligent, loving and progressive young woman in the early 1910s living through the horror of the war and the changing responsibilities that created for her, and the latter for creating such a real, complex and truly flawed heroine.

I initially wasn’t sure about Phoebe as a character, and she’s far from the ideal mother (or friend), but you just can’t help growing to love her for all of her quirks and, above all, truly feel her pain at the most recent blow life has handed to her and how that has affected her ability to express herself creatively. Knowing that this is at least partly inspired by the author’s most recent experiences only makes that all the more hard-hitting, and while I can imagine those scenes may not have been the easiest to write, they certainly hit home as a result.

I’ve deliberately tried to avoid spoilers in this review, but what I can say to prospective readers is that The Memory Tree is a wonderful exploration of two separate families living in very different time periods, joined by circumstance and geography, with some amazingly interesting story-telling devices (including sections delivered, rather hauntingly, by the birch wood in which the title tree stands). I thoroughly recommend it and, if you enjoy it, the author’s back catalogue holds some other treasures!


5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!

The Memory Tree. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 June 2016

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The Memory Tree

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lake Union Publishing (15 August 2019)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
File size ‏ : ‎ 4101 KB
Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
Print length ‏ : ‎ 322 pages


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