Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Book Shelf: The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

I have decided to feature some of my favorite reads from my book shelf.  This is not a review but some short answers to questions we all have about a book before we buy.

Why did I choose to buy this book?
The premise sold me on it. It is a suspense novel that runs 2 story threads. One in the present and one in 1830. I loved the movie, Dead Again, which did the same thing. So I when I read the blurb, I was sold on it.

What is the basic storyline?
Newly-divorced Julia Hamill has bought an old house in rural Massachusetts and while digging a garden in the backyard, she finds a skeleton, that turns out to be from 1830. The story of that long-forgotten murder victim is revealed as Julia is determined to find out who she was and what happened to her.

What did I like most? What stood out?
I loved the historical part of the book that featured a group of young medical students, one of them being Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, working in the maternity ward of a hospital where so many new mothers die from infections. It is in the course of the story that Holmes and the hero, Norris Marshall, begin to consider the possibility that infection is being spread by doctors, who treat a sick patient and then a healthy one. Later on in his career, Dr. Holmes was the first physician to come up with the concept of hand-washing between patients.

As far as characters, I loved Norris. He is the son of a poor farmer and to support himself while going to school, he works for a local "resurrectionist". He helps steal dead bodies from graveyards to sell to medical schools. Norris is a wonderful, likable character who ends up the prime suspect in a series of grisly murders.

And, Rose Connolly, a down-on-her-luck young woman whose sister dies in the maternity ward. She and Norris fall in love. This is not a romance but there is a scene toward the conclusion of the book where they make love. There is no graphic description. Just one paragraph that is so poignant. I was impressed.

What should readers expect?
It is well-constructed and it has enough plot twists to keep you turning pages. You will learn a lot about early medicine and be thankful there's been a lot of progress in the medical field. You'll root for Norris and Rose.  You'll like Julia and Rose's eccentric descendant, Henry Page, who with old letters from the 1800's, helps Julia unravel the mystery and identity of the woman buried in her yard.  Plus there's Tom, Julia's neighbor and love interest, who has a wonderful role to play especially in the end.

If you are not accustomed to reading mainstream fiction, you should know this book is gritty and realistic. It is not a historical romance where the reality is glossed over and turned into a Jane Austen movie. The historical characters have a rough, sometimes unforgiving life.  You may do some crying toward the end. Again, this is a novel, not a romance.  But, it does have an unforeseen romantic twist at the very end for Julia, which I loved.

How would Hollywood rate this book?  PG-13. Some violence. Mild language. No explicit sex.

I think it would make a great movie!

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