The Last Garden in England is author Julia Kelly‘s latest book and is set around the lives of five women who are connected by the stunning gardens of Highbury, a remote country estate in England. I enjoyed Kelly’s writing style, vivid descriptions and how she incorporates a variety of female lead characters, illustrating how their circumstances, professions, and social standing impact their lives.
The story is told in three eras – modern day, 1944 and 1907 by five women whose points of view are woven well together. I’ll admit that it took me a bit to distinguish Venetia and Emma, whose lives overlap a bit with their similar careers and romantic connections, but it didn’t take long for each character – Venetia, Emma, Stella, Beth and Diana – to show their unique personalities as they find their voices, strength and resiliency despite the limitations put upon them by society and their differing social status.
WWII is a super popular subgenre of historical fiction and sometimes it feels like I’ve ‘read it all’ but I always enjoy it when authors include new-to-me aspects of the war. In this book, Kelly illustrates how the British government expropriated country estates for the British army to use as convalescent homes for wounded soldiers and shows the different roles women had during the war – land girl, cook, nurse, business owner, wealthy estate owner. Kelly brings a depth and complexity to her protagonists as they face daunting issues of war and self-discovery.
This was a lighter, wholesome kind of read with a beautiful setting and an interesting blend of story lines that has a bit of everything – romance, heartache, friendship, loss and a dose of botany – but a green thumb is not required! (phew!). This was an enjoyable, if a bit predictable, read that focuses on an array of strong female characters who show the importance of friendship and resiliency during tumultuous times.
— Laurie P.