Landscape of a Marriage: Central Park Was Only the Beginning

Ward Olmsted

In the mid-1800s, Mary, a young widow with three children marries her brother-in-law Frederick Law Olmsted to provide stability for her family. While her new husband labors intently on designing and building Central Park in New York City, Mary focuses on her family. Over the next forty years, as Fred creates dozens of major city parks, private estate landscapes and public spaces, the pair fall in love, grow their family and experience both failure and success. Based on a real couple and actual events, this fictional memoir documents Mary’s journey through life and the numerous experiences that made her who she was.

There are many studies on the Father of American Landscape architecture. However, less is known about his wife. Although this account is fictional, it provides astounding insight into what their marriage might have been like and the way they overcame their struggles. Since the novel covers their entire marriage, it does have a slower pace, with numerous time skips, and the emotions are faint, almost as if recalled through a memory instead of being vibrant and jumping off the page. However, the experiences the Olmsteds have before and after the Civil War, up until the turn of the century are fascinating to read about, and the main characters are so complex, readers will inevitably want to look them up later to learn what really happened. The romance itself is so intertwined with Mary’s life that while the conflict is minor, it manages to push the plot toward the end. Overall, readers who love historical fiction with a heavy dose of real events should definitely give this book a try!

Sarah E Bradley