Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

This is a book about three different generations of women in England all set in the same place.  We read about their lives in Warwickshire at Highbury House.

Venetia Smith's chapter begins talking about how a garden project inspres her. "Each new garden is like an unread book, it's pages brimming with possibilty."

Beth's story is set in 1944.  She is a land girl and moves from Dorking to Warwickshire, settling in on a farm and loving it. Beth's back story told how she was orphaned as a young girl, taken in my her aunt but never shown love or support.  Her aunt had a duty to her and while she was fed and clothed, it was clear she had no emotional attachment to niece.  

Getting assigned as a land girl to a country couple who showed approval and kindness changed her life.  Her chapters at Highbury House during the war were interesting.

In present day, 2021 actually, Emma Lovell has a business called Turning Back Thyme where she designs gardens and also does her favorite thing, restorations.  Her inspiration is Venetia who originally designed the lush and complex gardens at Highbury House back in 1906.  I enjoyed getting to know Emma as she started to join in with village events such as the weekly pub quiz.  The team she ended up on was called Menace to Sobriety, I thought that was very funny.

The gardens are an entity in it's own as much of the story focuses on the designs and restoration of the terraced "rooms". A tea garden where polite company meet leads to the lover's garden brimming with flowers and plants in hues of passionate reds and pinks, then the bridal garden, the children's garden and the winter garden.  In Venetia's time is was being designed, Beth came along while the house was requisitioned as a hosital and the gardens were in a state of wildness.  Emma had the restoration job of trying to find out what it orginally looked like.  As the stories interwined I was unable to put this book down.  Dinner was late last night because I was near the end and had to finish!

This is my first experience with this author and I plan to seek out more of her work.  Julia Kelly did her research about requistioned houses during WW II and provided us with titles ot read more on that subject at the end of her book.

While I am not a fan of straight out romance novels, this book had just enough of the romantic element to work well within the storyline. I loved the ending and all mysteries about the people and the Winter Garden were solved.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader copy.  This is scheduled for publication 12 January 2021.  The genre is historical ficion and women's fiction.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for the British Isles Friday linkup.


  1. I like the sound of this one Tina, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. ShelleyRae, I liked this book quite a bit. The setting, the gardens, all of it!

  2. This sounds lovely -- the gardens and the historical time period and the modern business and life in a village. I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

    1. Joy, I think you will love this book. It's available for request on NetGalley and it's made me want to read more by this author.

  3. My mother gave me one of her books for Christmas last year and I appreciate the reminder because it got buried under something and I never read it. Would you compare her to Susanna Kearsley?

    1. CLM - I haven't read any of Kearsley's book yet so I don't know. This one was a good read and I will look for more by Julia Kelly. Which book do you have?


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