Friday, August 9, 2013

The Last Camellia; Sarah Jio

Author: Sarah Jio
Publication Year:  2013
Publisher: Brilliance Audio - Penguin/Plume
Edition: audio and eGalley

Reader: Justine Eyre  (excellent)
Source:  Library and Edelweiss
Date Completed: August - 2013
Rating: 4/5

Told in two separate story lines a half a century apart, for two women, an old country manor, the mystery surrounding it and the search for a rare Middlebury Pink Camellia are at the center of this story.

The first story takes place in the 1940's when Flora, a young woman from New York, with a love for plants, is anxious to help her parents out financially. She takes a job as a nanny at the Lord Livingston English manor. Her real mission in accepting the job is for the financial payoff, but she, in effect has made a deal with the devil. While acting as a nanny, she is has agreed to find and report the whereabouts of the "rare pink camellia" said to be somewhere in the gardens on the estate. Once there she is enjoying her time with the children and uncomfortable about her real mission.

Some 50 years later, Addison, a garden designer also from New York, is trying to escape her secret past. She convinces her English husband Rex, to leave New York to spend time in England at the quiet countryside manor, coincidentally Livingston Manor, which is now owned by Rexes wealthy family. Rex is a writer and agrees that the setting may be a good change for him while he works on his book. Little does he know that his wife is being blackmailed by someone from her past and she is more than happy to leave NYC behind, hoping her problem will go away.  Once there, the mystery of the manor's past, at least temporarily, takes Addison's mind off what has happened in her past, but not for long.

The novel has a Gothic feel at times, and a sometimes goose-pimply sense of what dark secret will be uncovered next. I would have loved to have been wandering through those overgrown gardens and orchards in search of the prized blossom myself -- but maybe not for the same reasons.  Flora, was my favorite character, she just seemed so innocent, and almost too smart at times to have gotten herself involved in such a scheme.  I loved Justine Eyre as the audiobook reader - she was perfect and made listening to the book such a treat.  What I didn't care for were the romantic threads that ran through the story, but I suppose, in part, they served a purpose.

There is plenty to keep the story interesting: an international flower thief ring, an old gardening notebook with hints to a mystery past and present and even some romance. Readers looking for a light summer read may find that The Last Camellia fits the bill perfectly.


  1. Glad you liked it. I thought it was more involved than the cover or title suggests. A good gothic read, I agree.

  2. It sounds like Jio has the dual narrative storyline perfected. I won a copy of this book and look forward to reading it.

  3. Gothic feel and the occasional goose bump? Yes, I'm in.

  4. As you know I really liked this novel as well. I really enjoy the weaving of past and present and lucky enough there seems to be so many authors doing that now. I also would love to have been walking through the orchards and especially the garden. That's what I really liked about the audio as well - the narrator painted such a vivid picture of it all.

  5. I have been wanting to read this author for a long time. This sounds good.

  6. Ooh, this one sounds good, especially if it gave you goosebumps!

  7. Author still on my TBR. This sounds very good.

  8. Glad you enjoyed it, too. I liked parts of it a lot, and other parts...not as much as her other books. But definitely a book to recommend.

  9. I love when a story can give me that goose-pimply feeling. I just discovered Sarah Jio this year. Looking forward to reading this one, too.

  10. I have this in print, but since learning Justine narrates, I will be listening. She is one of my favorites.

  11. This sounds like such a good read. I'm adding it to my list!

  12. I'm so on the fence about Jio. There are things about her writing I really enjoy. I do wonder if she's getting a bit formulaic - it seems like all of her books have parts in the past and present.

  13. I agree with the above comment. I love Jio's ability to pull you in but I am growing tired of the same formula. I think she writes beautiful but want something different from her. I have this one, but I have been waiting for the right time to read it.


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