The Last Garden in England
From the author of the international bestsellers The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes “a compelling read, filled with lovable characters and an alluring twist of fates” (Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife) about five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special garden.
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 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.
“Gorgeously written and rooted in meticulous period detail, this novel is vibrant as it is stirring. Fans of historical fiction will fall in love with The Last Garden in England” (Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind).
Three women across time are connected by a garden in Kelly's enjoyable and richly detailed latest (after The Whispers of War). In 1907, Venetia Smith is hired to design elaborate gardens for the Highbury House estate in Warwickshire. In 1944, Beth Pedley works there as a land girl. For both women, the gardens become scenes of loss and grief, tragedies that are hidden until landscaper Emma Lovett reconstructs the history of the grounds while restoring them in 2021. Venetia falls in love with a young botanist while renovating the garden, and after she becomes pregnant, the career she had worked for and the life she hoped to build are threatened by his controlling sister. Later, as WWII envelops Britain and Highbury House is turned into a hospital, Beth's tense relationship with the house mistress, Diana Symonds, becomes a shared dedication to protect the gardens from the ravages of war. While much of the narrative is given over to describing the design and work of gardening, Kelly balances Emma's detective work reviewing papers and records found in the house with Venetia's slow-burn tragedy and the twist that defines Beth's relationship to the gardens. Kelly easily delivers everything her fans will expect.
Heartwarming & comes together
It took a bit to follow each the individual’s stories. Finally came together with the ah-ha needed to connect the stories.
Read it in the days, couldn’t put it down
The Last Garden in England
This book was incredibly beautiful and an absolute delight. The Last Garden in England follows three timelines. In 1907, Venetia is commissioned to Highbury House in Scotland to design and produce an award winning and extravagant garden. In the 1940’s, Highbury House is a home to wounded soldiers and the garden serves as respite to not only the healing soldiers but to the lady of the house. Here we meet the lady of the house, Diane, her cook, Stella, and a local land girl, Beth. In 2021, Emma is commissioned to bring the garden back to its historically accurate self after years of neglect.
I loved following each woman in their own time period and their connections to the Highbury House garden. All of the women in this book were strong and captivating.
The images the author paints in the readers head, I feel as if I have endured all manner of seasons with the Highbury House garden. The author definitely did her homework with the horticultural terminology and precise naming of plants.
I so enjoyed this book and loved each of the women presented. I for one know I have read a good book when I am sad to finish it, as if to say goodbye to a good friend after a visit. I will definitely be revisiting this book.
TW: Miscarriage, loss of a child, loss of a spouse