Catherine Dunne – The Walled Garden

Beth, who has left Ireland and her family to find her own independence in London, has a divorce behind her and lives a teenager life. One day she receives an unexpected phone call from her brother James: their mother, Alice, is seriously ill and close to death. Beth leaves for Dublin, and when she gets to her mother’s home she finds a surprising situation: Alice is no more the energic rival she used to know, but a defenceless creature who is not even able to communicate anymore. Through that forced silence, however, flow the thoughts and the intimacy of an entire life; and the letters left to Beth by her mother before the illness force her to embark into an inner journey that will lead her to restart – as a daughter and as a woman – a dialogue with her brother.
A mother and a daughter, who have had frequent conflicts and who have chased each other throughout their whole lives hoping to return to the perfection of childhood, eventually re-join in their last embrace. Alice reveals herself as a mother full of love for her children, and a woman who when facing her memories and feelings has the strength to acknowledge her mistakes.

Narration has the kindness and peacefulness of a gentle whisper. Happy memories, nostalgic gaze to time that passes by changing everything, reminiscences of lived and shared sorrows fill the story, and touch the reader’s heart. The pages about Alice’s illness are warm and wonderful: alternation between lucidity, confusion and loss of conscience is poetically and tenderly described, with a grace that can even express the impalpable. It is not difficult for the reader to empathise with the mother character, yet with the daughter one.
What stands out from this book are introspection, attention to feelings expressed without any reserve, and a fascinating and warm style. The Walled Garden leads to constant self-inspection: the reader re-emerges from this book touched and moved, and realises that even a novel can lead to a change.

A very dense book, which leads to deep reflections.

Translation by Stefano Bragato (edited by Davide Spagnoli)