Cover Image: The Last Garden in England

The Last Garden in England

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Member Reviews

This is about three women in different time periods all bound by the same garden. This is another really good book by this author. Three different stories and all very interesting. I tried to picture the garden and couldn’t help but think how enjoyable it would be it walk through it.
I enjoyed the book and definitely recommend 
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the early copy
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If you love flowers and gardening you need to read this book.  The story is told in three different time periods in history, and that is the only issue I had with the book. It would take me a few seconds at the start of each chapter to realize where in history I was. It was worth sticking to and finishing this book .  I enjoyed the book and am thankful to NetGalley and the publisher  for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly
Source: NetGalley and Gallery Books
Rating: 5/5 stars

**MINI-REVIEW**

The Bottom Line:  I found this book to be tremendously entertaining, educational, and inspiring.  Covering three generations of women and their connection to a single site, I found the time slip nature of this book to be seamlessly woven together.  If I’m completely honest, my favorite “character” in this book is the garden originally created by Venetia.  As the book progresses, so does Venetia’s work and the descriptions are so wonderfully written that I could see the garden growing in my mind.  In the later generations, the garden and Venetia’s vision has come to fruition and then fallen into decline which brings one to the present and the campaign to bring the garden back to its original splendor.  Each woman connected to the garden has her own story to tell and those stories are so intimately connected to the garden as to be wholly inseparable.  I found this connection quite special and was pleasantly surprised to find that each woman had a completely satisfying ending.  In all, I was immensely satisfied with this historical fiction and find I can heartily recommend it to lovers of the genre.
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This was such a lovely read. I loved the storyline and history infused into this novel. The characters were interesting I loved the garden descriptions. Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy!
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**Full review to be posted to NetGalley, Goodreads, and Amazon closer to publication in 2021!**

This was such a truly interesting historical fiction novel. THe dual timeline element was really well done and I found both plot lines to be fairly interesting overall. I found the pacing itself was a bit hit or miss at times, with some awkward times that interrupted the flow. Overall, however, I found this really to be a really beautiful story and I absolutely loved all of the garden elements.
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This was outstanding! This is the best kind of historical fiction -- sweeping across years and generations and filled amazing details. I have told everyone I know to add this to their January to-read list. Excellent! I couldn't put it down.
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This story is told in three different timelines but centered around one very special garden at Highbury House in England. 
1907: Venetia Smith is hired to design a garden for this beautiful home. She fashions several small garden "rooms" such as the tea garden, children's garden, and the winter garden. When her client requests that she use her brother's roses instead of the variety she had planned, Venetia is initially frustrated but becomes pleasantly surprised by the roses and by Matthew himself.
1944: Highbury House has been requisitioned as a convalescent hospital for injured soldiers in the war. Diana,  the owner of the home, does her best to protect her garden from becoming crop land. She befriends Stella, her cook, and Beth, a neighboring "land girl".
2021: Emma, a specialist in English garden restoration, has been hired to restore the seriously neglected Highbury gardens to their original glory. When blueprints of the original gardens are found, secrets are discovered that tell a different story of the history of Highbury House.
I loved the beautiful writing of this story with descriptions of the characters in each time period. It reminded me a little of [book:The Secret Garden|2998] with its mysterious abandoned Winter Garden with the locked gate.
Thank you to Gallery Books and Julia Kelly for the free ARC of this wonderful book. I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. The views and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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*This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley.

The Last Garden in England is the first book I've read of Kelly's . Choosing to situate her book in three different time periods, they all revolve around the same garden, and the lives of the women who touched that garden.

Venetia is a garden designer in the first decade of the 20th century.  Known for her designs and use of non-traditional styles, she's made a name for herself.  Now, working on a new garden, she finds distractions that could ultimately end up sinking her career.

Beth, Diana, and several other characters round out the time period during WWII, in which England was besieged and many manors and homesteads taken over in the war effort.  The beloved garden designed by Venetia in a previous decade is no exception, granting comfort to the inhabitants of the manor that is being used as a makeshift hospital, and the family who still lives there as well.

Finally, Emma, of 2021, is hired to restore the beautiful garden to its previous glory.  A devoted fan of Venetia, unlocking the gardens mysteries becomes just as important as restoring it. And maybe there's time in there for her to discover what she truly wants and needs out of life as well.j

All of the characters are pretty compelling.  While I didn't connect quite so much with Venetia, I at least understood her plot, struggling to make a name for herself in a male-dominated world.  I think where I lost connection was in the romance, and even that probably only because of how quickly her particular chapters went.  My favorite character was probably Diana; I found her complex and interesting, especially given the trials her character has to endure.  Stella too really resonated with me.  I feel like the book has a potential to paint her in a bad light due to her choices, but I think her strengths were in recognizing her weaknesses and seeking to find the best solution for them. 

Overall the book moved pretty seamlessly despite having three different time periods woven in.  Each storyline was concise, tied together with the others on the major plot points, and all resolved satisfactorily.  While some of the romance points were a bit rushed, I don't think they detracted.  And knowing the time period for some it also kind of made sense to have them be rushed.  I was pleased to see a lot of information about the various volunteer and work programs during WWII (having just read The Splendid and the Vile it fit in very well with what I learned there).  It helped shed a light on that part of history and how people managed.  But best of all, the garden was a highlight of this book and I truly appreciated the explanations and descriptions of the various plants used throughout the garden.

A quick, but engrossing read, it's definitely one to settle in with.

Review by M. Reynard 2020
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Kelly (The Light Over London) takes readers to present-day England and the Highbury House estate where owners Sydney and Andrew Wilcox hire Emma Lovett to restore the neglected gardens to their original design. While remodeling Highbury House, Sydney stumbles upon blueprints of the house, including plans for the gardens designed by the famous Venetia Smith in the early 1900’s.

In a parallel narrative, Venetia is hired by the Melcourts to create one-of-a-kind gardens, but her attraction and affair with Mrs. Melcourt’s brother, Matthew Goddard, threatens her continued employment and future career.

And in 1944, Highbury House is turned into a convalescent home for British soldiers wounded during World War II. Diana Symonds, the owner of Highbury, is a war widow whose physician husband died during the war. Diana cares for her young son Robin who befriends Bobby, the nephew of the cook, Stella Adderton. Stella does her best to care for Bobby though she resents how raising Bobby derailed her dreams of traveling and leaving her position as a cook. 

Kelly devotes equal time to each storyline, highlighting the trials experienced by each of the three women bound together by their shared experiences with the gardens at Highbury. This is a richly woven narrative that will appeal to fans of novels focused on uniting characters from different eras.
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This historical fiction novel tells the intertwining stories of a magnificent estate garden during three different time periods.  First, at its creation in 1907 by an up-and-coming female gardener (the shock of it!).  Second, nearing the end of World War II when the stately home is used as a convalescent hospital.  And third, in present–day Warwickshire with another female gardener (not so shocking, this time).  Sometimes I find these time-hopping stories get a little confusing, and I did have to pay attention to trace how not just the garden but all the women were related to each other, however, the stories were different and compelling enough to make it easy to keep track of everyone and every time. 
This book is ruled by women.  Yes, there are some men, but they play ancillary roles in the story.  The real drivers of the story are determined women.  Venetia is the gardener, fighting her way against the prejudices of a woman in business.  Diana, Stella, and Beth are the stars of the second time period, all interacting in the same house and garden.  And Emma is the modern-day gardener dealing with a different prejudice of a woman in business—her judgmental mother.  
I really love these characters.  They each deal with successes and challenges appropriate to their place in history, they work together and against each other in realistic ways, and they criss-cross through not just place but time is ways that draw the whole story together.  So much of the action takes places in and around the garden—its beginning, its disrepair during the war, and its renovation.   It sounds spectacular, I wish I could visit.
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Thank you net galley for the advance reader copy of this novel.   This was a excellent tri-era historical fiction novel that covered 1907, 1944, and 2021told from the viewpoint of three different women connected by a garden.    At first, it was hard to keep the characters and timelines straight but became much easier as the novel progressed.   The story told in 1944 with Beth, Stella and Diana was my favorite.   I loved the plot twist with these characters discovered at the end.   Well written and will definitely read more by this author.
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Julia Kelly writes a historical fiction book about the gardens at Highbury House in three different time periods, 1907, Venetia Smith, 1944, Beth Padley, and present day Emma Lovett, all women who were in charge of the gardens. How intriguing how the gardens in England had such an significance in history. This author doesn’t disappoint and flawlessly goes between the different time periods to tell an intriguing story. Definitely worth reading and adding to your TBR  pile.
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I adore Julia Kelly’s abilities to drop the reader into noteworthy historical events while telling a parallel tale set in modern times. “The Last Garden in England” takes this technique one step further by creating three different storylines (and time frames) and doing so expertly.

In 1907, Venetia Smith has been hired to create a garden for a newly wealthy English couple at their home Highbury House. Meanwhile, in 1944, we met the three women living in Highbury House during the Second World War: Diana, the widowed owner; Stella, the cook; and Beth, who works at a nearby farm and who finds the gardens an inspiration for her sketches. Finally, the 2021 plotline tells the story of Emma, whose career is the restoration of long-neglected gardens. As Emma works to return this garden to its prime, she unveils that garden’s past history—and secrets.

Be patient with yourself as you are introduced to the three plotlines and the magnitude of characters. As you get further into the novel, the purpose of these stories become more clear and it’s easier to keep track of all the key players and how their stores weave together into defining the importance of the garden and how these women can draw their strength from it. 

What makes this novel a standout is its attention to detail. I know absolutely nothing about plants, but that does not matter as Julia Kelly immerses the reader into the depth and beauty of the gardens and why they matter so much. The amount of research the author has done to help you to understand the complexity of the different time periods is outstanding. 

Four and a half stars. 

Thank you to the author, the publisher and Net Galley for a chance to read this wonderful tale.
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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.  I have to preface this by saying Historical Fiction is not my favorite genre, but when I read the summary I knew I had to give this one a try. It did not let me down! Don't let the three different timelines scare you away!!  I loved all the separate stories and characters.  The garden and Estate- SWOON!  I definitely plan on reading Kelly's backlist for sure. 
-Out January 2021-
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I am such a fan of Julia Kelly's writing and this book absolutely did not disappoint. I love a story that intertwines different periods, especially WWII with present day. The Last Garden in England also tied in the early 1900's, which is always a fascinating time also. This story was centered around a large garden at a large country home in England. It follows the woman who designed it, the woman who lived and worked there (and around) during WWII and the woman hired to restore it during present day. This was just such a refreshing an captivating read. You could picture the beauty of this garden in your head and almost smell the flowers. Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery Books for the ARC.
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As a huge fan of Lucinda Riley and Kate Morton, this novel was amazing and drew me right in. Such vivid descriptions and amazing storytelling, I could not put it down!
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Although I’ve never read any thing by this author before, I am a huge garden lover. When I travel I always look for historic gardens to visit, so when I read the description of this book I thought I would give it a try. I am so glad I did!
The garden, from the story of it’s design in 1907, to it’s use as a place of rejuvenation and peace during World War II, and finally to it’s being brought back to life in current times, is almost a 4th leading character, the different rooms to create different moods and feelings for varied uses are vividly depicted. The book follows three women, the original designer of the garden, a WWll Land Girl working on nearby farm who becomes friends with the estates cook while the estate is being used as a hospital, and finally Emma, who has been tasked with bringing the gardens back to their former glory after years of neglect. We get to follow their lives, the challenges and love stories, written in a very readable, non saccharine way. 
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance copy, this review is my unbiased opinion. I’ll be looking for more books by this author.
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4.5 stars. Beautiful. At first I though 5 points of view over three time periods would be too much; but it wasn't. Just a lovely story about a garden connecting women throughout several generations. A touch of romance involved; but more of a story about the resiliency of women (and plants). Thoroughly enjoyable.
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Emma Lovell's small landscape gardening company has been hired to bring the historic gardens of Highbury House back to life. by Sydney Wilcox and her husband. The gardens were designed by Venetia Smith, one of a few female landscape gardeners working in 1907 England. During World War II the house had been requisitioned by the government for use as a rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers, with recently widowed  Diana Symonds trying to maintain her house and family. Land girl Beth is working on a farm nearby and finding a home there while local cook,. Stella Adderton cannot wait to leave for London and see the rest of the world. All of these women's lives blend together easily in this enjoyable book, although each time period is distinct.
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I loved this book.... every.single. page.  A story told in triple timelines... and yet it was easy to move between them. An absolutely fantastic story... I did not want it to end.

Thank you to Net Galley for an advanced copy of this book. My review is my own and is in no way required by the publisher.
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