The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly
publication: January 12th 2021 by Gallery Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction
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.
Three timelines, three amazing women, and three wonderful stories all told around Highbury Estate Gardens. 1907 is the original designer of the Highbury Gardens. Venetia Smith takes the job and starts the story of the gardens. The experience she has while designing changes her life forever. 1944 takes us to Highbury during WWII. The house has been turned into a war hospital. 2021 is the time when the gardens have been neglected for years and the owners of Highbury Estate would like them to be brought back to their original glory.
I am not sure if I can pick my favorite era. Each era has its own charm and its own story to share. The book would not have been nearly as amazing as it is without all 3 eras. They each told a story that was important to Highbury Estates story. I love the current time and the recreating of the gardens. It was amazing to learn of the history, to picture the gardens as they were and how they were found today. I loved how respectful Emma was of the gardens and her will to bring them back to how they were meant to be. 1907 was intriguing. A single woman, Venetia, comes to the estate to plant the original gardens. It was not just planting flowers; she was making rooms of special meaning to the estate owners. The people of the house and the surrounding area all added to her story and made her story so much more than just the garden. 1944 is my era. While I hate the idea of war, I love learning more about the time. This was a unique look at the world left behind. The widows left to run a household, the men injured and wishing to return to battles, and the help that takes on tasks that are not usual for them.
The Last Garden of England is a book that I was looking forward to. Julia Kelly used amazing detail in describing the gardens, the people, and the estate. I could picture the different rooms of the garden, hear the characters living their lives, and feel the love of the Highbury Gardens.
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Julia Kelly is the international bestselling author of historical women's fiction books about the extraordinary stories of the past. Her books have been translated into 11 languages. She has also written historical romance as well as fast-paced contemporary sports romance under the name Julia Blake. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London.
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