The Italian Garden 7 (Chapters 10 – 15)


After his encounter with Hanon, Toby finds himself shipped to England. The village where he wakes up to is where he will find the answers to his origins. Hanon told him that he will meet his mother there, and in the church in the village he sees the grave of Izabel Mandeleine, his mother. Later Toby learns that Izabel was another of Hanon’s victims, and since Arnaud had married Blanche, stealing his chance to won Marigny, Hanon raped Izabel,  impregnated her, and when she had the baby, he sent the baby to Arnaud.

After Toby’s forced departure, his father dies, and Joanna and Agnes are grief-stricken and disappointed. Eleanor is also anxious about Toby’s return, and when weeks pass and there is no trace of him, she becomes more and more desperate. The problem is that she is pregnant, and with that perspective she is to her wits’ ends. Then Hanon visits her, telling her that he has seen Toby with a young girl. So when he suggests marriage, Eleanor agrees out of despair.

Guillaume, who had asked her to marry him weeks ago, decides to press her into make a decision. So when he learns that Eleanor is married, he is jealous, but not because he loves Eleanor, but because he wants Marigny. I feel so sorry for Eleanor; nobody loves her and all the men she comes across only want her for the castle and the estate. During his visit to Eleanor, Guillaume sees the painting of Judith and Holofernes, and he recognises Joanna. He also notices lust in Hanon’s eyes, so he thinks that he can have something that Hanon doesn’t have. So since he knows that Joanna went to stay with Toby’s parents, he makes some enquiries and finds her. Without a moment’s hesitation he rides to the farm, and Joanna is there. Guillaume doesn’t beat about the bush and goes straight to the point: he wants her to be his mistress, and even though she is repulsed by the idea, she also thinks that she needs to find her own way. Guillaume promises that she will have everything: dresses, jewels, servants, a house, and her freedom. Agnes has been left with no money, so Joanna knows that she needs to find her own way in life, so she just tells Guillaume that she will think about it.

Toby manages to return to France, and first, she travels to his hometown. Learning that Paul is dead fills him with bitterness, and as he visits his grave, Joanna sees him. There is an angry exchange. Toby doesn’t give her much of an explanation and he doesn’t intend to visit Agnes as he has nothing to offer her. His intention is to travel back to Italy and fight again. On the way he finds Martin. The last time they didn’t part in good terms, but now Martin is in a bad shape. For months he has been working for Guillaume and treated François, Eleanor’s stepson. The boy was doing much better, but then Hanon, who is a horrible man and wants to make Marigny his, orders his men to kill him, so when the boy is riding, he is ambushed and killed. Martin is there when the servants bring François’s body and he realises that this was no accident. He starts drinking, trying to forget what he has seen, and it is in this condition that Toby finds him. Martin tells him about Eleanor marrying Hanon and the man killing François, and Toby reveals that Hanon is his father, and he intends to make a name for himself in the war, and then when he returns, he will take his revenge. Martin agrees to go with him.

A year or so pass, and things have changed. Eleanor has had her baby, but life with Hanon is not pleasant. She calls her child Guy, but she admits that she doesn’t love the boy. Poor mite! Hanon is horrible to him as well; he is too strict and he gets him a tutor when the boy is only two, and when he misbehaves, he whips him. Terrible man.

As for Joanna, she finally agreed to be Guillaume’s mistress, and she now has a baby girl, Sanchia. She has a pleasant life as she has everything she could wish for. Yet, she doesn’t love Guillaume, and she knows he doesn’t love him.

A turning point in the novel is a reception that the king gives in Blois where all the characters come together. Toby is there as a messenger for the king, and Hanon and Eleanor, and Guillaume and Joanna are there. Hanon realises that Joanna is the woman in his painting, so he decides he wants the real thing. During that stay Joanna and Toby talk, and he insults her, referring to her position as Guillaume’s mistress, and those words bring him a terrible slap. Toby tries to talk to her the following day, but Joanna is too angry; the only thing that he manages to say is that she should be careful as Guillaume only wants her because of Maligny.

After this episode, Toby returns to the war, and Joanna and Eleanor go back home. Hanon visits Joanna, saying that he was in the area and wanted to pay his respects. Then when he sees the garden Joanna has looked after all this time, he tells her that she should see the garden in Maligny. Guillaume encourages her to go, and Joanna goes to Maligny. Once there she is impressed with the garden, and in the end she and Hanon agree on her coming to create a garden for him. So Joanna starts coming to Maligny, and she falls in love now only with the garden but with Guy. Joanna can see the marks on his back, and the terror that the boy feels when his father is around. Then after several weeks Hanon invites her into the house and offers her some wine. Then she sees the painting, and Hanon tells her that he can give her more than Guillaume; he is not satisfied with just the painting, but wants the real thing. Then Joanna remembers what Toby told her about Guillaume using her for Maligny. She realises that in Blois, Guillaume had insisted that she wear a golden-coloured dress and pearls on her hair, just like in the painting, so she thinks that Guillaume had taken her to Blois to show her to Hanon. She has been used, and she has a revelation in that moment. Joanna refuses Hanon’s advances, and I was afraid he would force himself on her, but thankfully, Eleanor appears, and Joanna is able to escape.

Eleanor is also fighting her own battle. Now she is starting to dream about François, and she fears that there is something dark about his death. Actually, she talks to Guillaume about it in Blois, and Guillaume tells her that he is pretty sure that François was murdered. Eleanor remembers Martin was treating the boy, and after his death he disappeared, and Guillaume also tells her that he left without a by your leave. So what they want is to find Martin and ask her.

I really hope that Hanon, who is such a horrible man, gets his comeuppance for all the terrible things he has done and is doing. I am afraid for Joanna because this man is not ready to accept a no for an answer, so she might be in danger.

I have to say that I am finding the novel a bit too slow. Most of the characters are unlikable as all of them are selfish and ungenerous. I am curious to know how the book will end and which characters will end up together.

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