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Eden Gardens by Louise Brown

Eden Gardens

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One of our Books of the Year 2016.

Longlisted for the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016.

A vividly striking and entirely captivating debut novel set in Calcutta, covering both the Second World War and Indian Independence during the 1940’s. Beautiful adventurous Maisy and loyal, knowing ayah Pushpa tell their own tales, which are inextricably linked to each other. Maisy’s Mam ‘entertains’ army officers, yet she has big dreams for her daughter, as Maisy becomes a woman, their world starts to crumble. Louise Brown writes with the lightest of touches, yet is able to convey earthy, vibrant tones with an expressive eloquence. There are occasional moments of heart wrenching savagery, described by a character in such an unaffected, matter of fact way, that the thrust travels all the more intensely. My imagination soaked up this moving tale, the emotion it generated constantly surprising as I found myself transported to an exotically precarious world. ~ Liz Robinson

A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher...

'I’d challenge almost anyone not to be seduced by Louise Brown’s spellbinding debut novel, EDEN GARDENS. It’s the story of Maisy, who has no chance of growing up a nice British colonial girl. Her mother is a prostitute and alcoholic, and when Maisy is seduced at sixteen by her Indian tutor, her life changes forever, for better and for worse. Set in the closing days of the British Raj period, EDEN GARDENS tells of another side of British India, a world of castes, secrets, politics, ambition, and love of a different kind.

What sets it apart from me is the incredibly vivid sense of location, from the backstreets of the shared housing in Calcutta to the colonial bungalows beautifully wrapped by their flower-filled gardens – both dwellings are places that provide comfort and yet entrapment, too. The author also delves into some very serious issues simmering beneath the love story that arcs over the novel. It portrays an alternative story to the usual stories of dusty haired, bored British Colonial wives. It's colourful, rich in detail, probing in subject matter and beautifully researched. Ultimately, it is a love story, but it’s also a story of survival, told in the most entrancing way.' ~ Imogen Taylor, Publishing Director, Headline

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Catherine Bryce - 'A beautiful historical and thrilling novel set in the era of the decline of the Indian Raj.'
  • Angie Rhodes - 'Beautifully written, you can smell the spices, feel the heat, and your heart will break, you will laugh at some of the things Mam says, and cry at others, you will want a sequel.'
  • Alexandra Harper-Williams - 'Enthralling novel set in the colourful landscape of Calcutta in the 1940s told from the perspective of two very different women. Very enjoyable read!'
  • Ann Peet - 'Moving love story set in 1940s India.'
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'This is not a love story, a fictional account of another side to living in India for the Brits in the 1920s-40s nor a family saga.  It is all of the above and I loved it.'
  • Allison Batten - 'A light-hearted read, good to curl up in a chair with!'
  • Evelyn Love-Gajardo - 'This book has it all - exotic location, strong characters, believable plot and a doomed love affair...I found the book to be very well written and it held my attention throughout, so I would recommend it.'
  • Janet Gilliard - 'I really enjoyed this book. I was transported to the heat of India.'
  • Alison Bisping - 'A great book containing scandal and danger in a time where race, class and gender were everything.'
  • Sarah Harper - 'This absorbing book will immerse you in the colour, squalor, caste and strict social order of India and provide a glimpse of another world that will linger on in your memory.'
  • Joy Bosworth - 'This is not the overworked tale of white rulers living it up in India. It is, instead, a gripping story of a shady white woman and her daughter along with their faithful servant.'
  • Lorraine Blencoe - 'It's a compulsive read. It looks at Indian independence through the eyes of three women and their different perspectives on survival. It pulls no punches and examines extremes.'
  • Chloe Hill - 'This book had lovable characters, great imagery and gave me an insight into life on the harsher side of the British Empire.'
  • Zara Kazi - 'A good read...Brown captures the atmosphere in Calcutta in the 1940's by touching upon intricate details that really make you feel as if you, yourself are in India.'
  • Edel Waugh - 'Love, family and friendship is at the centre of this story and you can see how it is that which holds these women up when their life is not going to plan.' 
  • Yvonne Richardson - 'A charming tale of love and loss. Set in a colourful exotic country.'


Eden Gardens by Louise Brown

Eden Gardens, Calcutta, the 1940s. In a ramshackle house, streets away from the grand colonial mansions of the British, live Maisy, her Mam and their ayah, Pushpa. Whiskey-fuelled and poverty-stricken, Mam entertains officers in the night - a disgrace to British India. All hopes are on beautiful Maisy to restore their good fortune. But Maisy's more at home in the city's forbidden alleyways, eating bazaar food and speaking Bengali with Pushpa, than dancing in glittering ballrooms with potential husbands. Then one day Maisy's tutor falls ill. His son stands in. Poetic, handsome and ambitious for an independent India, Sunil Banerjee promises Maisy the world. So begins a love affair that will cast her future, for better and for worse. Just as the Second World War strikes and the empire begins to crumble...This is the other side of British India. A dizzying, scandalous, dangerous world, where race, class and gender divide and rule.


I was transported to the heat of India -- Janet Gilliard * Lovereading * Faithfully researched, colourfully rendered... a vivid and compelling read * Sunday Irish Independent *

About the Author

Louise Brown

Louise Brown has lived in Nepal and travelled extensively in India, sparking her enduring love of South Asia. She was a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Asian Studies at the University of Birmingham, where she worked for nearly twenty years. In research for her critically acclaimed non-fiction books she's witnessed revolutions and even stayed in a Lahore brothel with a family of traditional courtesans. Eden Gardens is her debut novel. Louise has three grown-up children and lives in Birmingham.

Photo credit: Aimee Spinks

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Book Info

Publication date

21st April 2016


Louise Brown

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Headline Review an imprint of Headline Publishing Group


368 pages


Historical Fiction
Family Drama
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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