The Last Garden in England

Gallery. Jan. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781982107826. $28. F
When landscaper Emma Lovell takes on the project of restoring the gardens at Highbury House, designed in 1907 by famed garden designer Venetia Smith, she little expects to become embroiled in a mystery spanning several generations. The place exerts a pull on her, as it did on the women who came to the garden before her: ambitious Venetia, who is changed by the gardens and the residents of the Warwickshire town; Diana Symonds, widowed mistress of Highbury during World War II, when her home is requisitioned as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers; Stella Adderton, reluctant cook at Highbury House, who dreams of escape; and land girl and artist Beth Pedley, who joins forces with Stella and Diana when the garden is threatened. Emma discovers multiple stories of love, heartbreak, and ambition, all revolving around the gardens she is restoring as she slowly uncovers the majesty of the gardens and their secrets.
VERDICT Kelly’s (Whispers of War) decades-spanning story will appeal to gardeners and lovers of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, though readers may find that the shortness of the chapters in each character’s voice detracts from rather than adds to the narrative tension.
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