Tilly Parker has had a rotten couple of years, but she's starting afresh in Kingsfield with a new job and half a plot on the Ivy Lane allotment. Tilly's main motivation on taking on the plot is for peace and tranquillity, but the other members of Ivy Lane have other ideas for Tilly. Ivy Lane isn't just about planting - it's about coming together as a community. With seasonal parties and bake sales throughout the year, the last thing Tilly is going to get on the allotment is a quiet life. But Ivy Lane just may be the thing that finally manages to heave Tilly out of her slump and allow her to move on.
Ivy Lane was originally published in four parts (one for each season) and I've heard so many great things about it, so when the complete novel was published, I knew I had to read it. I absolutely loved the sense of community within Ivy Lane, with everybody willing to chip in and help the other members when needed, especially Tilly who is a complete beginner when it comes to growing her own vegetables. There is such an array of characters within Ivy Lane, from hunky fireman Charlie, to sweet widower Alf and bonkers beauty therapist Gemma. I didn't think I would get on all that well with Gemma to begin with as I thought her 'dot coms' would quickly become annoying, but I couldn't have been more wrong! Gemma is a fantastic character, full of warmth and vigour and she is the perfect companion for Tilly, who is in dire need of a friend and passion for life once again. We know that something terrible has happened to Tilly in the past, but Tilly keeps this information to herself for quite a while as she tries to adjust to her new life.
I liked the way the book was split into the four seasons, with lots of drama and revelations packed into each one. I'm glad I read the whole book at once otherwise I'd have been itching to know what happens next and the wait would have been agonising! Cathy Bramley's writing is such a joy to read. It's light, easy and full of warmth and I found myself engaging with Tilly immediately. I became immersed in her story, feeling for her as she revealed what had happened before she came to Ivy Lane. We go on a real journey with Tilly - not only with her learning how to grow plants but seeing how, with the help of her new-found friends, she comes to life again.
I thought the book was warm and witty and I'm now desperate to get digging myself!