New for 2021 is The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly. The story weaves the lives of five women together seasonally as well as historically. The five women we grow to love are connected through an estate garden at Highbury House created by Venetia Smith in 1907. Emma, a gardener in present time is hired to restore this special garden back to it’s original beauty for new owners. The other three women, Beth, Stella and Mrs. Symonds fill in the story during WW2 when the garden is almost destroyed completely. This book is an easy read which keeps you guessing how all these women will finally be connected together.
3 Reasons Why You Should Read The Last Garden in England
1. ALL 5 MAIN CHARACTERS HAVE THEIR OWN VOICE
Few books have five main characters with whom the reader must emotionally connect with. Julia Kelly does a marvelous job giving each character their own voice. Each woman tells her story either through action, diary entries, and letters. The reader clearly knows each woman; their strengths and weaknesses through the situations they must succumb or overcome.
2. ONE LINERS ARE LIFE LESSONS TO PONDER
Have you ever folded down a corner of a Fiction book because you wanted to remember an important point? Me either- until this book of course!
The first point I wanted to ponder further came through a conversation with Mrs. Symonds and her cook, Stella. Stella, feels inadequate to raise her young nephew. Mrs. Symonds tells her that none of us are enough and that’s why we meet so many people in our lives. This is so true! The minute we feel like we are not enough we are on the road to our answer. No one person is ever enough- we need each other!
The second point came again through these same characters. Stella’s nephew was acting up in church and she was unable to get him to stop crying. Mrs. Symonds had better luck and Stella wondered how she did it. Mrs. Symonds said, “It isn’t a matter of stopping a child crying. Often it’s a question of listening to what it is that they want. If they are hungry, tell them that they will be fed.” I found this to be good advice and an unusual take on what might be behind a child’s temper tantrum. Insights into parenting can come from the most unusual places.
3. HISTORICAL FICTION IS INTERESTING
The Historical parts of this book were fascinating to me. Especially the references to WW2 and what the different classes of people felt obligated to do or were forced to do. I contemplated food and supply rationing as well as what it must have felt like to have personal land requisitioned for military purposes.
After reading this book, I found myself thinking in the formality of the language in The Last Garden in England. Something about the way people used to speak, their etiquette; captured my imagination with a look to our world today. Maybe some form of formality and courtesy could rise again as a way of politely acknowledging the great potential within each of us.
What’s not to like about The Last Garden in England?
I found keeping track of five characters difficult in the beginning chapters of the book. I relied on the cover jacket frequently to see which woman was who and to which time period they belonged. One character in the 1944 time period is referenced as “Mrs. Symonds” by everyone due to the formalities of the time period. This same character’s chapters are referenced as “Diana”. I myself recognized her according to most of the text as “Mrs. Symonds”. I won’t say the book has too many characters because each character has a part to play in the story. Just keep that dust jacket handy!
READ PAST THE PROLOGUE PLEASE!
I’ve never read Julia Kelly before and had no idea about her writing style. I read the prologue and found it so wordy with garden flower names and descriptions that I almost put the book down for good. I thought I could never read an entire book written like this. Luckily, I kept going and realized this was the main character Venetia, from 1908 speaking. It’s true, her language had to be more formal due to the time period and she was the designer of this garden of beauty. As later chapters would attest, Kelly remains true to each characters personal voice and the voice which each time period dictates.
Why did I give The Last Garden in England 5 Stars?
The Last Garden in England got 5 Stars from me because I hated to put the book down! I had an unprecedented morning of free time and spent it devouring this book. I grew to love the characters; became happy when it looked like all would work out and sad when it seemed like all was lost. Julia wrote the dialogue tightly. By that I mean, it was relevant to the story line. I did not skim through much in this book.
The Last Garden in England is not classified as a mystery yet has an element of mystery. I never predicted the final twist for the main character Venetia, which brought the whole story right back to the importance of the prologue.
Finding beautiful life lessons within the text was just a bonus worth checking out. You will love this book.
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