Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly (audio)

 

Title: The Last Garden in England
Author: Julia Kelly
Narrator: Shiromi Arserio, Marisa Calin, Danielle Cohen, Katherine Littrell, Siobhan Waring
Published: February 2021, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 10 hours 46 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:

From the author of the international best seller The Light over London and The Whispers of War comes a poignant and unforgettable tale of five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special place. 

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: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden. 

The year 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 to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens - and the people she meets - promise to change her life forever. 

The year 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 now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades. 

In this sweeping novel reminiscent of Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amélie, Julia Kelly explores the unexpected connections that cross time and the special places that bring people together forever.


 

My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Julia Kelly and I absolutely loved it. It completely swept me up and held me captive from start to finish and was the perfect antidote for these long winter days.

I loved how this story was told, using three different times periods and bringing them all together with a garden. You might think it would be confusing keeping it all straight, but each time line is so vivid and unique in it's own right and I found that I was equally invested in all three...and I loved that! I wanted more of each one. There is the present day, the early 1900s and then the 1940s and it is all set at the historic Highbury House where we have this garden that is first designed, then preserved and finally restored.

This book is filled with five strong female characters, whose lives are tied to the house and the garden and I loved getting to know them. Each had their own issues to combat in their own times and I loved seeing them overcome this. I felt that all the details about the gardens in each of the three time periods were so vivid that I could picture myself walking through them at any point. And I appreciated just how true to the times the author stayed, clearly doing her research and not picking flowers from now to use in the gardens of 1900s. I also loved the explanations of why to pick certain flowers over others as I am most definitely not a gardener.

I also loved that there was a bit of a mystery to this...why was part of the garden locked? As the story unfolds, we slowly learn why and this is where having the three parts comes into play as pieces are slowly revealed to put everything in place.

I cannot recommend this one enough. It's a captivating story that will keep you engaged with a story about friendship, loss, love and hope. I cannot recommend this one enough!


Audio thoughts: I loved listening to this and thought all the narrators did a fantastic job. Some of them were new-to-me, but that did not matter as they all brought their A-game! I found myself glued to my ear-buds and wanted nothing more than to just lose myself in this story and loved the way each narrator brought their character to life. The pacing and intonations were spot on and I loved the emotions that each narrator infused into their voice as needed. This really was a great book on audio.


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1 comment

  1. I really tried to get this one. so far not successful. It sounds delightful.

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