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November 30, 2021

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

“I have never understood “gardeners” who refuse to garden because it is unseemly for a lady or gentleman to dirty their hands. Perhaps they don’t know the thrill of plunging a trowel into spring-softened soil to toss up the sweet, earthy scent of leaves and twigs and all manner of matter. By refusing to stain their aprons, they miss the sensation of damp, fresh dirt crumbling between their fingers or breathing the fresh air deeply. They don’t know the satisfaction of knocking the dust off one’s clothes when retreating into the house for a well-earned cup of tea.”

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Last Garden in England
January 2021; Gallery Books; 978-1982107826
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); historical fiction

This beautifully written book is about a garden that is a crucial part of three women's lives over a hundred period.  The story is told through three timelines, and the garden is the central point in each of those timelines.

1907  - Venetia is a popular garden designer for huge estates in England.  When she's hired at Highbury House estate, she has a chance to really show off her designs.  She is a woman before her time that had a career and was unmarried.   The people that she meets at the estate are difficult to work for and they end up changing her life in ways that she never expected.

1944 - Diane and her young son live at Highbury House, her deceased husband's home.  Diane is consumed with grief over the loss of her husband and finds peace in the gardens.  When the house was requisitioned and transformed by the Army to a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, she insisted that the gardens should be left alone and not changed.  The other key character in this timeline is Beth, a landgirl who was sent from the city to help a farm family.  She has no family and is just looking for a place to call home while she helps England out during the war.

Present-day - Emma owns a small design company and has been hired to restore the gardens to their earlier beauty.  She doesn't really have a home but finds a place to live near each of the gardens that she works on.  Restoring the gardens at Highbury House is a dream come true because she had studied and was in awe of the first designer, Venetia.  As she finds out more about the history of the gardens, she discovers secrets about the previous families that have been kept hidden over the years.  

Even though this book is centered around the garden at Highbury House, it has many other elements - romance, mystery, friendship, and love of the outdoors. I'm not a gardener and had to google some of the plants that the characters talked about but the descriptions of the plants and flowers in the garden were beautiful and made me wish that I was in the middle of a beautiful English garden.  

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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  1. Great review. I'm not a gardener either, but I love the way gardens can set a scene/mood in a book!