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  • Beautiful settings, wonderful characters

    Three timelines, three amazing women, and three wonderful stories all told around Highbury Estate Gardens. 1907 is the original designer of the Highbury Gardens. Venetia Smith takes the job and starts the story of the gardens. The experience she has while designing changes her life forever. 1944 takes us to Highbury during WWII. The house has been turned into a war hospital. 2021 is the time when the gardens have been neglected for years and the owners of Highbury Estate would like them to be brought back to their original glory. I am not sure if I can pick my favorite era. Each era has its own charm and its own story to share. The book would not have been nearly as amazing as it is without all 3 eras. They each told a story that was important to Highbury Estates story. I love the current time and the recreating of the gardens. It was amazing to learn of the history, to picture the gardens as they were and how they were found today. I loved how respectful Emma was of the gardens and her will to bring them back to how they were meant to be. 1907 was intriguing. A single woman, Venetia, comes to the estate to plant the original gardens. It was not just planting flowers; she was making rooms of special meaning to the estate owners. The people of the house and the surrounding area all added to her story and made her story so much more than just the garden. 1944 is my era. While I hate the idea of war, I love learning more about the time. This was a unique look at the world left behind. The widows left to run a household, the men injured and wishing to return to battles, and the help that takes on tasks that are not usual for them. The Last Garden of England is a book that I was looking forward to. Julia Kelly used amazing detail in describing the gardens, the people, and the estate. I could picture the different rooms of the garden, hear the characters living their lives, and feel the love of the Highbury Gardens.

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    7 person found this review helpful

    7 people found this review helpful

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Historical fiction at its best

    The Last Garden in England is historical fiction at its absolute best. Julia Kelly tells the story from three different perspectives: Venetia 1907, Beth 1944 and Emma present day. I loved all three of these independent women who had the same garden in common as you learn their stories. I hated this book to end. I seldom reread books but The Last Garden in England , I could easily do so . Please take time to read the authors notes at the end of the book, they add even more depth to the story.

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    6 person found this review helpful

    6 people found this review helpful

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • BEST for Lovers of Gardening

    Sorry to say this historical novel did not do much for me. Perhaps it's because I'm not a gardener. Despite what the book description promises, I did not find this either "poignant" or "unforgettable". Like many new fiction books written these days, this one uses that tried-and-true (in my opinion, overused) device of telling three narratives, from different periods of time, that only come altogether at the very end of the book. • 1907. A little-known-but-soon-to-be-famous garden designer, Venetia Smith, specializes in long-neglected gardens. She is working to design elaborate gardens for famous Highbury House, a Downtown Abbey type home for British landed aristocrats. • 1944. Like many large homes, Highbury House has been requisitioned by the government for use as a convalescent hospital for injured World War II soldiers. Recently-widowed homeowner Diana Symonds is not only dealing with her own grief, her young son, and a domineering sister-in-law, she is also managing the house staff and trying to maintain some semblance of a normal home life. And she is working with a number of "land girls", small town civilians working in agriculture to contribute to the war effort. • 2020. Emma Lovett, a deep lover of history, runs a small gardening company specializing in restoring overgrown gardens to their original design. The opportunity to work at Highbury House is a dream come true. As is the looming prospect of a job offer that would free Emma from all the business-owning tasks she hates doing. Weaving back and forth between time, we follow the stories of these three women and a few others as they navigate war, tragedy, dances, romances, pregnancy, and all manner of secrets and British class prejudice. It sounds like a decent enough premise. Only, for at least half the book, I found it difficult to remember who was who as the author jumped back and forth in time. There are lots of people, multiple romances to track, and too many of the characters didn't seem particularly distinctive to me. I rarely felt any emotion for any of them. BUT, I will close by suggesting that reading this novel might be a totally different experience... if you love gardening.

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    6 person found this review helpful

    6 people found this review helpful

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Heartwarming and Beautiful Story!

    My hopes were high for this book but they were exceeded! It's full of heart melting beauty from the sweet stories themselves to the magical gardens (just look at the cover!) to the relationships to dreams. All of it. The fabulous ending came far too quickly! Five women, all very different, over three time periods, are all connected by Highbury House. So many puzzle pieces fit together beautifully whilst not skipping a beat. History, secrets, romance and crushing heartache are intertwined intricately. This is a gentle book of metaphors and life lessons as we follow these women and their lives and interactions between classes. In 1907 we meet Venetia, a garden designer, very unusual at the time as she is female. Her clients are wealthy and have lofty goals. In 1944, we are introduced to three women...Beth loves working the land, is hired as a land girl. Stella is a cook but has higher ambitions. Diana is the mistress of the manor and is smitten with her cherished gardens. We meet present day Emma who was chosen to restore the original gardens but pieces are missing. Pieces are missing for each of these women. As a Master Gardener who has been to many gardens across Europe (including Hidcote mentioned in the book) I was drawn in and could envision the breathtaking prettiness. It would be so easy to go on and on about the book but you need to just relax and enjoy it. Absorb its charm. Immerse yourself in the characters. I recommend this book for Historical Fiction and General Fiction readers. It's an absolute must read. Just lovely! Be sure to read the author's personal notes at the end, including her writing inspiration. My sincere thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this splendid book in exchange for an honest review. Much appreciated.

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    2 person found this review helpful

    2 people found this review helpful

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Winter Garden

    This is a story that crosses three different time periods. It is a story of strong women. In 1907 Venitia Smith created the first beautiful garden at Highbury House setting a standard for women in the garden design business. She left London never to return because of a secret forging a new life in America. In 1944 Highbury house was turned into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers. Three strong women had close ties to Highbury House and the gardens. Beth(a land girl), Stella (the cook), and Diana the owner and Mistress of the house. Part of the garden was plowed up for vegetable garden during this time. There is some tragedies that take place during this time that cause much grief to these women. In 2021 Emma is commissioned by the owners of Highbury house to restore the gardens to their original beauty in 1907. In trying to find out the original garden plans Emma uncovers secrets of the past. The story is set out in the different time periods as you read along. It is easy to follow as the chapters are clearly marked. The book tells the story of those involved with Highbury house and the beautiful gardens. You will read about relationships, family quarrels, secrets left untold, the war and how it affected those living in and around the house and gardens and finally a rebirth of the gardens and of love and life. I very much enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to others. Thanks to Julia Kelly, Gallery Books, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy for an honest review

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