Mini-Review: The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

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Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

Source: NetGalley and Gallery Books Rating: 5/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I found this book to be tremendously entertaining, educational, and inspiring.  Covering three generations of women and their connection to a single site, I found the time slip nature of this book to be seamlessly woven together.  If I’m completely honest, my favorite “character” in this book is the garden originally created by Venetia.  As the book progresses, so does Venetia’s work and the descriptions are so wonderfully written that I could see the garden growing in my mind.  In the later generations, the garden and Venetia’s vision has come to fruition and then fallen into decline which brings one to the present and the campaign to bring the garden back to its original splendor.  Each woman connected to the garden has her own story to tell and those stories are so intimately connected to the garden as to be wholly inseparable.  I found this connection quite special and was pleasantly surprised to find that each woman had a completely satisfying ending.  In all, I was immensely satisfied with this historical fiction and find I can heartily recommend it to lovers of the genre.

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