The Poison Garden

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

I have really enjoyed Alex Marwoods previous works, so I had high expectations for The Poison Garden. 
Unfortunately perhaps too high, I feel like this one didn't quite hit the mark for me. 
I was left feeling rather flat at the end, and confused. 
I wouldn't recommend this particular book by Alex Marwood, but I would recommend others.
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Love, love, love! The author is great at writing real characters in intense situations. This book is very different.
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Sorry can't get into this book at all. Found it confusing and tending to jump around too much. I am sure that many people who are brought up in in a cult society  have many issues to deal with once they have left and many questions that need answering. I managed to get half way and then gave up as I couldn't relate to any of the characters and didn't feel much sympathy towards them.
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Thank you to Netgalley, Alex Marwood and Little Brown Group for my arc of The Poison Garden in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis: 22 year old Romy, has just escaped the cult where she has lived her whole life, now she has to learn how to live on the outside, but with her past close on her heels is it ever possible to truly leave a cult behind? 

I really liked this book. Alex Marwood is very skilled in writing a creepy thriller leaving the reader feeling unsure who's side they should be on, who is telling the truth and who is telling lies. The story is told from the perspective of Romy in the present and Romy back in 2010 when she was still part of the cult, as well as her aunt Sarah who has been tasked with looking after Romy's younger siblings. I liked the twists and turns the story took and would definitely read more from this author in the future.
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This novel is tense and utterly gripping. It is full of content 
This book is edgy and unpredictable 
This book will take you out of your comfort zone
An excellent read
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A slow-burn mystery novel with a very creepy setting. The novel was poignant and suspenseful, but it took a while to get interesting because of its slow pace. However, I would still recommend it to fans of cult stories and mysteries (not thrillers). The different POVs made this an incredibly evocative read.
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A dark and intriguing exploration of cults and the impact they have on members.

After the mass poisoning of other members of her cult, Romy and her two siblings Eden and Ilo have to adapt to life in the outside world. Other novels featuring cults often have more of a "perfect" outside experience where the former cult members are almost rehabilitated. 

This novel is different and feels all the more realistic for it. The children/young woman struggle to set aside their beliefs and integrate into society despite the efforts of their new reunion with an aunt they never knew.

There is a small element of mystery (how did the cult members die - it seems like poisoning but who did it?). There is also uncertainty around the motivations of all those who were in the cult and it wasn't easy to see where it was going. The end really surprised me and it was refreshingly different to similar novels.

Thanks to the publisher, Netgalley and the author for this advanced review copy.
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The Poison Garden is a different type of read than other books I’ve read by Alex Marwood and although the writing was good I found it a little confusing. This will be a successful book, it just wasn’t for my taste but will be for a lot of others.
The book is centred around Romy who has just escaped the Plas Golau cult in Wales, she has been there since she was eight months old and is now struggling to adapt to modern life. Sarah is in the real world not the cult but shows a different side of how restricted life can be when parents dictate children’s lives.
This was a book I was excited to receive but unfortunately fell short of my expectations. There was not one likeable character, the storyline bounced from timelines that quick I didn’t know where I was and because of this I struggled from beginning to end and that unfortunately was a let down as well. I don’t like to be down on a book but this wasn’t for me, it will be for a lot and will still be a winner....sorry.
I would like to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere for this ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.
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I have to be extremely careful to avoid spoilers here as this is a book I would want as many lovers of thrillers, dark suspense and horror to read without knowing where they are going.

After escaping the Plas Golau cult, Romy(who has lived there since she was 8 months old) has to adapt to modern life, without her family around her. The way that the modern world is viewed through her eyes after being embedded into a very strict caste structure with defined roles and ways of behaving that do not gel with current mores,is absolutely fascinating and so detailed.

Run by magnetic figurehead Lucien, this is an end of days cult where they are known by their nearest neighbours as 'survivalist types' who are awaiting the arrival of 'The One' who will see them through the End Times. They regard those outside the cult as 'The Dead' in that their lives are doomed and pointless, they are to be pitied for being so susceptible to the luxuries they expect and are seduced by whislt those in the cult grow their own crops, slaughter their own animals, bury their own dead.

The things that you take for granted-making tea, a bath to yourself, jerk chicken-are completley new experiences to her, as is the availability of medicine. Romy's mother, Somer, was in charge of the physic garden so any remedy, and also poison, was very important for all those in the cult to recognise from a very early age.

Somer, renamed from her birth name of Alison,ran away from home herself after finding herself pregnant and rejected by her highly religious parents, themselves the descendants of an organisation called the Federation who preached that Jesus would return to Earth and more specifically, Finbrough where they have built a house for His Holy Homecoming.

Alison and younger sister Sarah have grown up inside this environment, learning that things like free will, are pointless when the path of your life is so set and determined.

When Romy is in the real world, our world, Sarah is on the edge of divorce from husband Liam,childless and reduced to living in her parent's old home, frowned upon by dust laden family portraits, scolded by the dead and rejected by the living.

''Liam said that there was something wrong with her.Women cry,he told her.It's what they do.His little girlfriend cried all the time, she's sure of it.Cried to display her womanhood,cried to persuade him that his wife had no emotions.But,if your early training teaches you that tears bring penalties,you learn not to show them unless you're alone.''

As a legally recognised adult, Romy is given a flat of her own after being deemed safe to live alone, despite not being assessed by any psych teams specialising in cults. But she is not the only one who has escaped. Her younger siblings Ilo and Eden have been given into Sarah's custody, and the contrast between them and how they work towards finding each other is disturbingly heartwarming.Because these are not functional children, this is not a functional adult and all of them are hiding a an earth shattering secret...

Suspenseful, twisted, dark and deliciously funny in parts (the rewording of Gloria Gaynor's classic anthem of liberation is a master stroke!)this is a standout novel for me. Not for the faint hearted, there are scenes that might upset more delicate stomachs, but it is Alex Marwood's best novel yet. It alternates between now, and then, with Romy and Somer/Alison's narratives of life in, and growing up in the cult with Sarah's story now, and Romy's post cult life.

In this humble reader's opinion, I read it as 'The Posion Garden' as an allegory between nature and nurture-the mushrooms you grow in a garden might all look identical, but some could absolutly leave you bleeding from every orifice and dying horrifically.

The notion of family,what leaves you to accept or reject one form of family for another and then the subsequent choices that you make as an adult, creating your own, are keenly felt as well as the issue of self determination and free will.

How far can it bend before you break?

Is the modern world on  a path to destruction and is opting out ever a viable option?

Does believing in a power higher than yourself mean you are condemned to a physically impoverished life on earth? What is the nature of hope and happiness?

All of this is what I was left mulling over after finishing 'The Poison Garden', it was deeply affecting, thought provoking and an intense read which I thoroughly recommend without hesitation to those who love a novel of suspense, pshychological thrillers and mysteries.It's chilling and one I would re-read again, same as her other books. She excels at picking up the rock of human behaviour, poking the pale grubs of life that stir underneath, and exposing them to the sun. Excellent, thought provoking stuff.
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I was excited to get into this one after reading and enjoying Alex Marwoods previous novels but this just didnt click with me.

The characters had no warmth or emotion at all which I found quite strange as we are given real in depth back stories and memories to go by.

The constant jumping from past to present was confusing at times but I carried on hoping that it would all fall into place and come together, disappointingly this wasnt the case.

The ending felt disappointing to be honest, maybe because I was hoping for more and the fact I'd stuck with it, I dont know, it just didnt really give me what I wanted.

I struggled from the beginning to end and I think the main reason for me is that there eadnt one likeable character in the whole book, I just couldn't relate or relate at all.

On a positive note, as always Alex writes exceptionally well and the actual idea behind the story was brilliant.

Sadly a 2* from me.

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for the ARC.
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Undeniably great writing and dealing with the awful repercussions of leaving a cult. Disturbing and often times very harrowing and terrifying, it serves to demonstrate that given the right (or perhaps wrong) timing - the emergence of a perceived charismatic ''Messiah'' is all too plausible as we know of so many instances of people being trapped in these awful communities and falling victim to fanatical individuals who prey upon the weak, vulnerable and emotionally unstable. Having said all that, ultimately I felt somewhat bogged down in this book - I was very nearly a DNF with all the different perspectives and switching back to the before and the now which constituted the majority of the story. Hmmmm, I'd like to give it a 3 star but on this occasion I felt something lacked - hence the 2 stars. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC. (Maybe it's because this has been unlike any Alex Marwood book I've previously read that I've been miserly with the star rating!.)
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"None of us will be the same, by tomorrow, she thinks."

Two police officers are called out to investigate an awful smell on a farm by a neighbour: a seemingly innocuous call that gives them no warning of the life-changing and terrible sight they’re about to discover: lifeless bodies piled one on top of each other, frozen in death as they tried to flee. All the adult members of the Ark, the cult that lived on the farm, are dead apart from Romy who was in the infirmary unable to walk, listening helplessly as her family died in agony. 

This book had me hooked from it’s chilling first chapter and kept me guessing until the final page. The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect, but I loved.The choice to have Romy and her Aunt Sarah narrate offered us very different perspectives on events happening in the book and the world in general. Through the use of flashbacks to their childhoods we learn that these very different women actually have a lot more in common than first meets the eye. 

“How do you explain, to someone who didn’t live it?”

Romy was a baby when her teenage mother, Alison, joined the Ark. She’s known nothing else but their strange, isolated lifestyle that consisted of preparing for the Apocalypse and living off the land while following the teachings of their Father, Lucien. She’s been taught to fear the outside world and those who inhabit it, known to her as the Dead. She sees danger and disaster all around her and is too terrified to leave her flat unless absolutely necessary. We soon learn that Romy is hiding secrets bigger than her fear of life outside the Ark and that there might be more to her story than it first seemed. I really liked how her character was written, especially the fears that she’d been indoctrinated to have. A lot of these fears were of real things that can or have happened, it’s just she’s been taught to see them as a sign of the world’s doom and depravity instead of accidents or evil done by a small few. It highlights how a small change in perception can completely alter our world view and it was fascinating to see the way we live through the eyes of people that had grown up totally removed from our society.   

This wasn’t the first time I’ve read a book by this author, but it is a number of years since I did, and I will certainly be catching up on any others I’ve missed. The writing in this novel is riveting, harrowing and heart-rending. The pace quickened as the story went on and had me on the edge of my seat, the revelations increasingly jarring as we approached the dramatic and chilling finale. The Poison Garden is a multilayered, twisty thriller full of secrets and interesting characters that will delight and surprise lovers of psychological thrillers and mysteries. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Alex Marwood for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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The cult's den was found too late. Most adults were already dead inside. Most. But Romy survived.

22 and alone in a world their "Father" use to call "dead", Romy is desperately searching for a why to come in contact with the "Father's" son, a way to get back to the only family she knows. She has more than her life to take care of now; she has another one growing inside her. But in order to be accepted back, she needs to finish all the tasks that are given to her. And they're neither simple, nor innocent.

The Poison Garden portrays successfully the deeply disturbing inside life and notions of cults, and imagines some of the results that come with the choice to be part of one. The glimpse Marwood gives us into the mind and soul of Romy is astounding, and, if nothing else, it definitely shows a tremendous research on the author's part. We follow Romy along from the point she was rescued from the cult and onward, but the story is full of flashbacks that, little by little, help us to complete the puzzle of hows and whys.

All in all, it was an incredibly well-constructed story, with smart characters and a good plot. What was lacking, however, was a faster pace and a more justified ending, The story felt dragging at parts, with whole pieces of writing that didn't at all help with the continuation of the plot. What is more, the ending felt abrupt and highly unrealistic, spoiling some of the enjoyment I felt while reading.

But, overall, this was a very interesting book to read.
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With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an open and honest review.

I have enjoyed all Alex Marwood`s books so  I was excited to read The Poison Garden.  

The prologue started when the police were called to The Ark, a large commune set in the countryside.  Within the commune the dead bodies of adults and students were found  lying on the ground.

When the police arrived they found twenty two year old Romy was found in the commune `hospital.  She was heavily pregnant and had `serious legs injuries.  After recuperating in hospital and then rehab she was released.  Romy had two younger siblings called Eden and Llo and longed to be reunited with them.

Eden and Llo were being look after by their Aunt Sarah who was their mother Somer`s sister.  Sarah was lonely after the breakup of her marriage and was not sure she could be responsible for two children.

A lot more happens in this book and I don't want to give any spoilers.  The plot was told from the POV of Romy, Helen and Somer.  I enjoyed reading about philosophy of the cult.  It was amazing that a group of adults believed Lucien no matter how charismatic he was.  I enjoyed reading about Romy`s reaction to living in the modern world with the dead.  Her reaction to Jerk chicken was fabulous.

I didn't particularly like Eden but I loved Llo.  

If you have read Alex Marwood`s previous books I would say The Poison Garden is completely different.  If I knew the plot of the book I would never of picked it up.

Overall this was not a bad read, however the ending was extremely disappointing.
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I did persevere with the book but I didn't like the way it bounced from one character to another. I found it confusing and it didn't seem to be going anywhere. I felt that it seemed more of an account of events rather than an actual story. .
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I’ve read all of Alex Marwood’s excellent books and this one does not disappoint. I’m very stingy with my stars, but this was an instant five star read. It’s the tale of two sisters who grow up in a closeted Christian sect, one of whom builds a life outside that group and one of whom segues into a rural survivalist closed community. When tragedy befalls the survivalist community, the sister on the outside has to take on the parenting of her nephew and nieces. 

Deeply creepy and unsettling, this book unpicks the story of the survivalist community and the corruption that lies within, and what happens when members of the community are forced out into what they call The Dead. It’s a clash of cultures, mores and perspectives that you know cannot end well, and Marwood skilfully leads you through to the conclusion. Like all her other books I simply couldn’t put this down, and I was so sorry when it ended. Alex Marwood is the heir to Barbara Vine. 

I received a NetGalley copy in return for an honest review.
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A beautifully written, extraordinary novel which is an engrossing and haunting read, The Poison Garden is one of those rare books you finish reading and immediately want to read again.  It is the story of Romy, an engaging character who is taken by her mother to live in a commune in deepest Wales, which gradually reveals itself to be less a power-sharing group and more a patriarchal cult.   Everyone has their role, and children are expected to acquire life skills from an early age and play their part in community life.  However, as power struggles begin, who can resourceful Romy trust?  And, when she escapes the confines of the community, how can she and her siblings learn to live in the world the rest of us know?  You may be able to take the girl out of the  commune, but can you take the commune out of the girl?  This is a thoughtful and intelligent story which raises many question about how we raise and protect our children, and being an Alex Marwood book, there are strong psychological themes and twists to entertain and surprise the reader.  I thoroughly recommend this superb read.
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My thanks to Little, Brown Book Group U.K./Sphere for an eARC via NetGalley of Alex Marwood’s ‘The Poison Garden’ in exchange for an honest review.

‘The Poison Garden’ opens with a deeply shocking scene as two police officers pay a welfare visit to the Ark, a survivalist community in Wales, after reports by neighbours that something isn’t right. 

The timeline of the narrative moves between the present and events earlier in the life of twenty-year old Romy. She serves as the narrator for a good portion of the novel slowly revealing her life in the Ark as well as after in chapters titled: among the Dead reflecting the cult’s attitude towards non-members.

Also in the present day we are introduced to Sarah, who was a younger sister to Romy’s mother, Alison. Romy has a brother and sister, Ilo (13) and Eden (15) and Social Services places them with Sarah as their only living relative. She is quite nervous about taking on the responsibility for them, especially as they have grown up outside of society and quite naturally have difficulty fitting in with their peers.

From the opening this was a very dark tale and this continues to its final pages. Certainly it makes for grim and uncomfortable reading and drives home the potential dangers inherent in such extremist cults. 

Unfortunately there were no notes or acknowledgments included with the advance reading copy. Still I will seek out interviews and the like as I am interested in finding out more about Marwood’s inspirations for this powerful, thought-provoking novel.
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An unflinching and multi-layered depiction of the complicated dynamics of an apocalyptic cult. 

Romy is one of the main voices of this book. Her navigation of the world outside the cult creates a completely skewed narrative that adds to the reader's feeling of being off-balance and yet is surprisingly revealing about the insidious nature of the apocalyptic cult she was part of. In flashbacks to her life in the cult, she is clearly warring with the others unwavering conviction that the charismatic leader is always right. However, this is explored further and the complicated dynamics at play are uncovered; is the unadulterated belief real? Are people too afraid to voice dissent because this would mean acknowledging their own complicity in the cult hierarchy? Or is there genuine fear of the repercussions for challenging the leader? 
As the book progresses it becomes clear that the hold that the cult has over its members is deeply ingrained, and there are some truly disturbing moments as the book nears its conclusion. 

My thanks go to the publishers andNet Galley for the advanced copy in return for an honest review.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the author and publisher for a copy of this book.

This book wasn't for me.  I found the back and forth story line a bit confusing.  That being said, it was a good story.
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