Small Eden by Jane Davis
Book Review - Blog Tour

Publication Date: 30 April 2022, eBooks / 30 May 2022, paperbacks
Publisher: Rossdale Print Productions
Page Length: 394
Genre: Historical Fiction (1864 – 1910)


A boy with his head in the clouds. A man with a head full of dreams.

1884. The symptoms of scarlet fever are easily mistaken for teething, as Robert Cooke and his pregnant wife Freya discover at the cost of their two infant sons. Freya immediately isolates for the safety of their unborn child. Cut off from each other, there is no opportunity for husband and wife to teach each other the language of their loss. By the time they meet again, the subject is taboo. But unspoken grief is a dangerous enemy. It bides its time.

A decade later and now a successful businessman, Robert decides to create a pleasure garden in memory of his sons, in the very same place he found refuge as a boy – a disused chalk quarry in Surrey’s Carshalton. But instead of sharing his vision with his wife, he widens the gulf between them by keeping her in the dark. It is another woman who translates his dreams. An obscure yet talented artist called Florence Hoddy, who lives alone with her unmarried brother, painting only what she sees from her window…

My Thoughts

Robert Cooke, much to his mother's dismay, was born with a lust for adventure. The boy successfully reaches manhood, marries very young and becomes a successful business man growing plants for medicinal purposes. His dream is to turn a disused chalk quarry into a pleasure garden, a memorial to his two sons who died from scarlet fever when they were infants.

Robert and his wife, Freya, are still grieving their loss ten years later when the story begins proper and Robert sets in motion his grand plans for the quarry. The little boys are not mentioned between them and it comes as a surprise to their daughters, Estelle and Ida, that they had brothers, albeit before they were born.

Robert doesn't share his reason behind the plans for a pleasure garden with his wife, who often accuses him of neglecting his daughters, even more so now that his time is taken up with his new project. As a Victorian father, he defers to his wife in matters concerning the girls, but is not as insensitive towards them as she thinks. Ida, the youngest, is the more adventurous of the two; while Estelle seems to disdain her father perhaps through the influence of her mother.

Robert is central to the novel and, although he owns the pleasure gardens, those that helped him bring his dream to fruition, the Reynolds family and the Hoddys, especially Florence an artist, see it as theirs for different reasons.

The changing world of late Victorian England is portrayed beautifully in this novel. Progress cannot be stopped and there is a tinge of sadness in that fact as Robert tries to hang onto bits of the past. For Freya, she hopes the success of the pleasure gardens will see them socially accepted by the leading families of Carshalton and help secure the futures of her daughters. Of course, change is inevitable and touches all of the characters brought together in this superb novel.

Small Eden is one of those novels that plods along slowly without giving an indication of where it is headed, but when you get to the end you realise what a wonderful journey the author has taken you on.

Where to Purchase

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Meet the Author

Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis writes thought-provoking literary page turners.

She spent her twenties and the first half of her thirties chasing promotions in the business world but, frustrated by the lack of a creative outlet, she turned to writing.

Her first novel, 'Half-Truths and White Lies', won a national award established with the aim of finding the next Joanne Harris. Further recognition followed in 2016 with 'An Unknown Woman' being named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine/the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust, as well as being shortlisted in the IAN Awards, and in 2019 with 'Smash all the Windows' winning the inaugural Selfies Book Award. Her novel, 'At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock' was featured by The Lady Magazine as one of their favourite books set in the 1950s, selected as a Historical Novel Society Editor's Choice, and shortlisted for the Selfies Book Awards 2021.

Interested in how people behave under pressure, Jane introduces her characters when they are in highly volatile situations and then, in her words, she throws them to the lions. The themes she explores are diverse, ranging from pioneering female photographers, to relatives seeking justice for the victims of a fictional disaster.

Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey, in what was originally the ticket office for a Victorian pleasure gardens, known locally as ‘the gingerbread house’. Her house frequently features in her fiction. In fact, she burnt it to the ground in the opening chapter of 'An Unknown Woman'. In her latest release, Small Eden, she asks the question why one man would choose to open a pleasure gardens at a time when so many others were facing bankruptcy?

When she isn’t writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

Connect with Jane:
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  1. Thank you so much for hosting Jane Davis today, and for your wonderful review. I'm glad you enjoyed reading Small Eden. x