Goodbye, My Rose Garden Vol. 1 Review

goodbye my rose garden vol 1 cover

Queer Edwardian romance is just what I needed.

Goodbye, My Rose Garden presents us with a somewhat peculiar situation – Hanako, a young Japanese woman, has made her way to Edwardian London in the fervent hopes of being able to become a professional writer. Hanako is operating under the unfortunate mistaken belief that England is a significantly less sexist society than her own. She is, luckily, saved from sure destitution when Lady Alice Douglas witnesses yet another publisher brutally rebuking Hanako for having the temerity to want to have a career instead of babies; the Englishwoman offers her a gig as a maid, which the latter gladly takes. Alice is a kind-hearted woman Hanako finds admirable, but things take a decidedly unsettling turn when admirable Alice asks her maid to promise to kill her. But as Hanako begins to spend more time around upper-crust English society and hears the rumors flying around regarding her mistress, she begins to get an idea of what is bothering the other woman so much that she’d prefer to die than live.

Let me begin by saying that this first volume was almost exactly what I had been hoping it’d be, and that the ways in which it was not were ways in which it exceeded my expectations. There’s plenty of roses and things can tend toward being a bit overblown in terms of tone, yet its all done centered around two very sincere people who both are desperate to do the right thing. Neither Hanako nor Alice seems to have figured out yet what is the genuinely right thing for them to do, which is what is driving the story thus far; what Alice is convinced is the right thing is clearly wrong, while Hanako is quite thoughtful about all of her own doubts over the path she seems to have agreed to. The scattered moments of joy both incline me to suspect a happy end is in the offing, while also preventing the whole thing from sliding entirely into gloom.

Dipping into spoilers for this paragraph – so skip down if you don’t want to be spoiled! this is a warning to keep scrolling! just go on down to that next paragraph, please! – I’ll admit that the nature of Alice’s secret surprised me. Her secret? She’s gay. Wait, what? I mean, sure, of course she is, but I truly wasn’t expecting that THAT was her big ol’ shameful secret, which might sound a bit silly. Yet it was, for me, as I’m more used to yuri and BL in which this isn’t the primary concern on the parts of the cast – yes, there’ll be probably some worry about “oh no what’ll my friends think”, but the angst and stress is more focused around the specific romance at hand rather than follow-on implications. Here, I felt like I was reading a queer historic romance novel (for example, K.J. Charles’s Proper English, or Alex Beecroft’s False Colors) (y’know, I don’t like romance novels but make it queer and POW suddenly I’m interested) more than a manga – not a bad thing in either direction, by the way. Between this and the fact that women’s roles and sexism is a big concern of the text, color me intrigued.

Anyone seeking absolute fidelity to historical details is going to be a bit dismayed, as while the clothes, interior design, and social attitudes are largely on the mark, much of what goes on between Alice and Hanako is firmly fanciful. Alice gifts Hanako older clothes of hers, buys her outfits and jewelry, and visits places like a bookstore with her (the bookstore, Hatchards, is a real place, I’ll note, and you can visit it to this day – its an excellent bookstore), all of which would’ve raised eyebrows pretty significantly had this occurred in real life. Hanako also has her own room, which by itself is amazing considering she’s just a regular maid, but it is also large enough to comfortably accommodate a bed, a writing desk, and at least a couple chests of drawers. None of this troubles me, even if some of it did elicit a laugh, but I understand some won’t be able to get past it.

Seven Seas delivers a nice release, as is generally the case with their stuff. Amber Tamosaitis and Cae Hawksmoor, who provide translation and adaptation respectively, have deftly handled dialogue such that it reads both smoothly and as generally realistic for the period. I was also pleased with how crisply the pages were rendered in the digital format in which I read it, still not always a given with digital manga releases – the degree of detail in clothing and background art really does demand a faithful reproduction.

All in all, I was pleased as punch with this opening volume and I’m eagerly awaiting the second volume, currently slated for a July release.

 

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