(Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the chance to read an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
Everything I love in a novel came together seamlessly in Julia Kelly’s THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND.
That could be the sum of the review but I have more to say about how I loved this book.
Historical fiction is my go-to, comfort, guilty-pleasure sort of fiction. If it faintly seems historically based, I’ll probably give it a try. To have a book that is basically double-dipping in history – in that Venetia Smith exists in 1907 and Beth Pendley-Hastings exists in 1944 and their stories intertwine – is genius. Like the holy grail of historical fiction.
Add in that Emma Lovett exists in 2021 and her story connects to theirs, and everything becomes somehow more perfect.
THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND is not just a novel about gardens. It’s not a story about romance, though the woman all find that to varying degrees.
It’s a story about women, at it’s heart.
Venetia Smith is a trailblazer, forging a path in garden design that no woman has done before. By the social norms of 1907, she should have been married with children by the time she arrives at Highbury House to create a spectacular garden for the Melcourts.
Beth Hastings is a Land Girl during World War II, doing her part for the war effort by working on the country farms to feed Britain. Over the course of just a few years, she grows from a shy and timid orphaned girl into an artist in her own right willing to forge her own path, even in a quick marriage where she insists she is an equal to her husband.
Emma Lovett has the benefit of a modern, more equal society and still she feels pulled and stretched beyond the things she wants to do – restore Venetia Smith’s gardens at Highbury House to their former glory. She pulls hardest the way she wants to go.
These three women, and the key women who support them, are real. Their hopes and their dreams and their tragedies and their triumphs are not always what everyone, even they, might expect out of life but they are stunning nonetheless.
I am so happy to have read this book!
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