Cover Image: The Last Garden in England

The Last Garden in England

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Last Garden in England is a gem of a read.  Spanning generations, the story focuses on four women connected to an English estate. The author has created a story about a garden from inception in the early 1900s to restoration in the present.  Each time period is defined by characters that reflect its mores as  both triumphs and hardships are experienced.  This book engages on so many levels.  It isn’t just a visualization of the garden, but also of restrictions, expectations and the many faces of love.  I voluntarily reviewed an advance copy of this book from NetGalley.  Most highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
I love historical fiction, so I was really excited to be approved for this book. And it lived up to my expectations. It was a beautiful book that I would highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
Enchanting from the beginning. I absolutely loved this read. 

Venetia is a landscape architect with ground breaking ideas in a time when it is frowned upon for women doing this type of work.  Her latest, project, Highbury, will prove to be a challenge and groundbreaking on many levels.  

30 years later Diana is the mistress of Highbury, raising her young son in her own as her husband died in WWII.  
Stella is the cook in Diana’s house who dreams of something more. 
Beth is a land girl assigned to a farm nearby Highbury and has never had a true home of her own. 

70 years later, Emily is the owner of Turning Back Thyme, a landscape design firm that specializes in reconstructing historical gardens. The garden at Highbury, is her latest project. 

This novel wove beautifully and seamlessly from each characters’ story to the next.  All of the characters pulled you in and left you wanting to know more. 

Not only was the store captivating, but the imagery was astounding. As someone with a horrible black thumb, I appreciated learning about the various gardens, flowers, and greenery referenced in the story. 

I would absolutely recommend this book. I could not put it down.
Was this review helpful?
This is a historical novel about 5 women spanning 3 timeframes, 1907, 1944 and 2021. Emma who has dedicated her life to restoring neglected gardens has a commission to restore a series of gardens at High urg House designed by Her idol Venetia in 1907. The house has been left to Diana after the death of her husband during the was. Beth is working at the near by Highbury House as a land girl (a land Issa young women who are sent to farms to replace the young men who have gone off to war).. Beth is searching for a home after her parents died and she went to live with her aunt who really didn’t want her.she loves the town near Highbury House and often delivers food to the house. Stella a cook at HH is miserable and is saving money and taking correspondence courses in order to move to London, get a job and then travel. She becomes saddled with her sister’s 5year old son when her sister is killed a pin a bomb raid. All the women are complex, endearing and fascinating. There are love stories which seem natural and not contrived just to add romance.
Was this review helpful?
This work of historical fiction weaves together the stories of strong women facing the challenges of their times.  Venetia is designing the gardens of the Highbury House, working for the snobbish Melcourts.  It is the early 1900’s, a time when a scandal could ruin a woman’s reputation, facing Venetia as she falls for the owners’ brother Matthew.  The second story revolves around two women, Diana Symonds, a war widow in Highbury House which has been requisitioned for use as a hospital during WWII, and Beth, a land girl who is looking for a place to call home.  Beth was orphaned at an early age, and felt unloved by her guardian.  Lastly, we meet Emma in 2021, a landscape professional hired by a young couple to restore the Highbury House gardens to their original design.  The stories are told in alternating chapters, with rich details of their eras, as well as beautiful descriptions of the various gardens.  I loved the very English setting, and the stories of strong women who face challenges .  I highly recommend this wonderful book, and thank NetGalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
The Last Garden takes the current obsession with World War II stories told back and forth between war time and the present day a step further, starting this story in 1907 with a woman, Venetia Smith, that acts as a professional garden planner. Venetia is commissioned to design a set of gardens for Highbury House and along the way falls for the brother of wife's homeowner which ends up causing her to leave England for America. The story is then looped into 1944 when the wife of one of the descendants is required to convert the home into a convalescent hospital for injured service members during the war. Finally Emma in 2021 is hired to restore the gardens to Venetia's earlier plans from over a century ago. I really loved the focus on the gardens, and I kind of wish that Kelly's descriptions of them had been even more vibrant. There is less focus on them in the 1944 part of the story, but one of the gardens has a dramatic impact on all three women the author focuses on during that time. While I do like seeing the evolution of the garden over multiple generations and multiple points of view I did feel like it could get muddled at times - especially in the 1944 portion. The five different perspectives also makes it a little difficult to really feel like you're getting to really know and be in the shoes of any of the characters. Ironically I felt most strongly about the women that were the "villains" in several of the timelines. This is another solid book by Julia Kelly that I enjoyed and would recommend to people who enjoy these types of stories, but it isn't quite in the upper tier for me.
Was this review helpful?
The Last Garden in England reconstructs an abandoned historic garden, uncovers a mysterious locked gate, and reveals the lives of determined women, separated by generations and war but who grow connected by one famous garden.
Julia Kelly presents The Last Garden in England in triple timeline and the voice of five women, including the diary entries of the Edwardian garden designer, Venetia Smith.  Readers are introduced to original garden designs through the intricate details drawn and planted by Venetia in 1907, sketched by “land girl,” Beth in 1944, and recreated by Emma and the company crew of Turning Back Thyme in 2021. 
Highbury House and its labyrinth of garden “rooms” in Warwickshire, England, becomes the “living” landscape for the nouveau riche Mr. & Mrs. Melcourt in the early 1900’s, Dr. and Mrs. Murry Symonds in 1944 war torn England, and Sydney and Andrew Wilcox in 2021. Each family is grafted into the history of this once breathtaking garden.
 Readers’ love for Venetia and her gift of visionary gardens will thrive as Julia Kelly’s tendrils of love and loss are intertwined amongst the thorn encrusted, vine covered locked gates and the seeds of new beginnings.  
Return to an early Victorian era and wander the rose petaled pathways in The Last Garden in England.
Was this review helpful?
Highbury House estate had historic gardens. They were designed in 1907 by Venetia Smith commissioned by the Melcorts. Mrs. Melcort's brother, Matthew, lived nearby and bred roses. Many of his varieties were used in the garden "rooms" designed by Venetia. Venetia's reputation is growing and she is determined to make this garden a masterpiece. The garden, and the people she meets, change her in ways she never expected. After working with this garden, Venetia moved to America, so the Highbury House garden was The Last Garden in England Venetia designed.

Present Day:  Sydney & Andrew Wilcox commission Emma Lovett to restore the garden at Highbury House. To be accurate with the restoration, Sydney searches through her grandfather's papers to find the originals. Henry, who runs a family farm nearby, also provides his grandmother's sketches of the garden, as it was in the 1940s. As Emma learns more about the garden's past, she uncovers secrets that have long been hidden.

1944: Beth Pedley, an orphaned Land Girl, arrives at a farm on the outskirts of Highbury. She just wants a place to belong. Cook Stella Adderton, wants desperately to leave Highbury House. Widow Diana Symonds, mistress of Highbury House, wants life to be like it was before the war and before her house has been commissioned into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers. When war threatens the gardens, these three women are drawn together by a secret that will be kept for generations.

In The Last Garden in England, Julia Kelly writes a extraordinary story of unexpected connections that cross generations and of the special places that change lives forever. I was captivated! I was allowed to read this book on #netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
Julia Kelly gives us an interesting historical read featuring three storylines, three strong women and three different time periods. The story features a beautiful garden and all the secrets it holds. We experience all the heartache as well as the love shared by many of the characters. Well written with a beautiful cover that draws you in. #TheLastGardenInEngland #JuliaKelly #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
Three stories in one: a woman who designs high-end gardens struggles with a frowned upon romance in 1907; a WWII story of heartbreak and loss; a contemporary story of a young woman trying to restore the garden. The first two stories were riveting and were well worth reading. Like many novels of this genre, the contemporary story just didn't grab me. Overall, however, I enjoyed the book and couldn't put it down towards the end.
Was this review helpful?
I received this from

Set in three timelines. 1907: Venetia Smith, 1944: Beth Pedley, Present day: Emma Lovett are all involved with Highbury House Gardens.

I enjoyed all the gardening stuff, the designing/planning and how different flowers/shrubbery would mature and create the garden rooms. I spent much time looking at pictures of the flowers that were mentioned. But, there were very familiar storylines making this an uncomplicated (boring?) predictable read.

Was this review helpful?
What a beautiful story. The Last Garden in England tells the story of the gardens at Highcourt House from their creation by a female gardener in the early 1900’s to the war years to a present day restoration and the women who love them. Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams and Downton Abbey. I loved the mystery and seeing the stories come together. Each woman’s story was better than the chapter before. This book was a cozy, joyful trip to England!
Was this review helpful?
Wow! I am blown away by this book. I love everything about this book it is my new favorite!  historical fiction at its best with characters & a story line that every reader will love.
Was this review helpful?
Told in multiple viewpoints across more than 100 years, The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly is an atmospheric, dramatic read. In 1908, we join Venetia, who has been hired to design a revolutionary garden for a country estate. In 1944, we join Beth, a Land Girl stationed at a neighboring farm. In 2021, we join Emma, who has been hired to restore the garden. I love multiple viewpoints because each chapter has you riveted and on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams or Karen White, this is the poignant story of love, loss, and sacrifice that you need to add to your TBR today.
Was this review helpful?
A tale of three gardens
A prepublication Big5+ review

r/suggestmeabook: I want a drama about women of various eras dealing with similar issues about work and love.

Edwardian, WWII and contemporary

Rating: PG

Publication date: 1/12/2021

From the publisher:

From the publisher: 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.

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.

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.

Julia Kelly expertly explores the themes of women and work in two major past periods and contemporary England through the frame of a garden. What will you give up for your dream of work or your dream of love? We used to think we could have it all, but Kelly does a good job of showing that from the dawn of professional female artists, compromises have had to be made.

At first, it was a little difficult to keep up with whose point of view was being discussed, despite the labeling of each chapter with each of the five women’s names.

Venetia was easy enough, given the unique name coupled with the earlier period, but I had a more trouble remembering which name matched which woman. The tone is fairly consistent for all these points of view, despite the fact that Venetia is first person and the other four are third party close.

Another theme she explores is the one of home: what constitutes one and when do we start wanting one? All of the women have different answers, and the answers morph with their character arcs, which are developed at a believable pace, as seasons change.

The choice to explore three different women during WWII is interesting. Of late, it feels like land girls and occupied country estates have been fairly thoroughly explored, but juxtaposing the land girl, the lady of the house, and the cook for the great house helps illuminate all of them in new and interesting ways.

The garden itself is lost on me. I have a vague sense of all the plants she was describing, but not the specifics of them or what a room in a garden is. However, it still worked for me, as the love of the various characters for the garden and what it symbolized to each of them came through.

A solid piece of historical fiction—probably not one to haunt my dreams, but The Last Garden in England was a good meat and potatoes read.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this book. I'll be posting my review on Goodreads and Amazon
Was this review helpful?
Lovely book and historical novel about 3 time zones and three women , and how they all connect to the same Historic garden. Writing and characters were clear, good winding plot, and educational wrt gardening and history of gardens. Very pleasant read and would highly recommend. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Was this review helpful?
I have been a fan of Julia Kelly historical books for awhile and I can say they have not disappointed me yet. This story goes between present day, 1907 and 1944. Present day is about Emma Lovett and she is working hard to restore the famed Highbury House estate gardens. 1907 is about Venetia Smith who is a garden designer and was the one who originally designed the Highbury Estate gardens. Then in 1944, Beth Pedley only wants to find a place to call home. Stella Adderton who works as a cook at Highbury Estate wants to leave. Diana Symonds is the mistress of Highbury Estate and is trying to cling to the pre war life style. All of these ladies have a secret.  I think fans of Downton Abbey will really enjoy this book. The story had a good plot and twists. I really enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
I found this book to be so good!!!  I was a little thrown at first with the 3 different time lines but after writing down the names with each timeline, I understood the bokk much better.

Three women are tied by a Garden at Highbury House.  Venetia in 1907 is the first to design this garden which is a combination of many gardens on the property.  Beth in 1944 is working on the land of a farm near Highbury and begins to make deliveries there.  Beth likes to sketch and begins making sketches of the gardens.   Emma in 2021 is asked to bring the gardens back to their former glory.

There is sadness and happiness in this book.  There are mysteries that are uncovered and many new friendships that begin.

Thank you for an early copy of this beautiful book!!  I greatly enjoyed it!!
Was this review helpful?
I loved this beautiful book! Told in multiple timelines and voices, the characters were so well developed and the descriptions of the garden were so alluring that I really didn't want it to end! Can't wait for it's publication so that I can buy it!
Was this review helpful?