April Wilson is wondering what to do next – her life has been turned upside down after the loss of her husband so she’s hoping to piece herself together again with a visit to her elderly great aunt, Edith. Arriving in the rural idyll of Tindledale, she’s dismayed to find Edith’s cottage and the orchard behind it in a sorry state of disrepair. Edith seems to have lost interest completely, instead she’s become desperate to find out what happened to her sister, Winnie, who disappeared during WWII.
April gets to work immediately, discovering that the orchard still delivers a bumper crop each year, and with the help of some of the villagers – including Matt, the enigmatic Farrier – begins to unravel the mystery of the missing Winnie. Slowly, April can feel things coming to life again – but can Orchard Cottage work its magic on her too?
The Secret of Orchard Cottage is one of those books you just feel yourself getting into, almost like you’re part of the book, like you’re actually watching everything that’s going on from above, and I really liked April. Considering everything she’s gone through, she’s one of the strongest main characters I’ve ever met, and I love how selfless she was, going out to look after her Aunt Edie, despite her own grief and sadness. Even more so, when she starts investigating what happened to Edie’s sister, Winnie. It’s actually a pretty remarkable story – and I kind of wish we had had more snippets back to Winnie’s life then, like we did in the Prologue. That would have been an interesting addition, but nevertheless, you still really get to feel the full force of Winnie, because she is a massive part of this book. This might be April’s story and the story of Orchard Cottage, too, but it’s also Winnie’s story.
This was genuinely one of the most special books I’ve read this year. It was so full of warmth, despite the difficult subjects it tackles – April losing her husband, Gray; Winnie’s story; Edie losing memories and thinking she’s in a different time to the one she’s in, but the novel never loses it’s heart or soul. It’s helped by Bella, Bella brought a lightness to the book, a shine, and the other residents of Tindledale are also awesome. Honestly, it’s like the best place to live. And Matt. Oh, man I love a tattooed guy. JUST because of the tattoos, he has sleeves, which are my absolute favourites. I dream of having a tattoo sleeve (or two) and that’s what caught my eye immediately, but he was so sweet, too.
This is the kind of book where you just love everything about it and want to squish it in your arms, I’m not kidding. It just made my heart want to burst, there was so much warmth, light, laughter, and sadness, too. But it was still hopeful, I have no idea how Alex Brown pulls that off, but she does. She’s a truly amazing storyteller, able to weave hard topics into something manageable, that doesn’t make you want to go and cry or bang your head in frustration, because you see this stuff every day, and when you read you kinda want to be away from real life, but Alex makes it easy to digest, less horrific. The Secret of Orchard Cottage is an amazing book, trust me. This is my favourite of Alex’s books so far, it just had so many layers to it, and characters that I really, really invested myself in, and it also made me shed a tear at the end. It basically gave me all the feels.