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The Lost Garden: A Novel by Helen Humphreys
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The Lost Garden: A Novel (original 2002; edition 2003)

by Helen Humphreys

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4163125,516 (3.84)197
Member:KaterinaBead
Title:The Lost Garden: A Novel
Authors:Helen Humphreys
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2003), Edition: First Published Stated, Paperback, 192 pages
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The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys (2002)

  1. 00
    Land Girls by Angela Huth (charl08)
    charl08: Different views of the experiences of women enlisted in WW2 to work on the land whilst the men were away.
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English (28)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I am not much of a gardener myself but when I was small, I knew the names of most of the common flowers where we lived, I am intrigued by the language of flowers, and I have always thrilled to beautiful gardens. The idea of a hidden or lost garden appeals to me more than you can know and I'm sure the title and cover of this book drew me in immediately. I have to say that as a conditional because I have had it sitting on my bookshelf unread for more than a decade. I can't explain why it sat for so long but getting the push to finally read it was wonderful, especially as it is a gorgeously written story. In fact, Helen Humphreys' latest novel, The Evening Chorus was one of my favorite reads of last year. The Lost Garden has the same seductive, mesmeric feel to it that the newer novel does and I loved immersing myself in the lush and gorgeous language of this beautiful novel.

Gwen Davis has worked for years at the Royal Horticulture Society in London when she volunteers for the Women's Land Army as a way to escape the Blitz. Gwen is generally quiet, almost invisible, ill at ease with others, and convinced of her plainness and undesirability so being in charge of an outfit of young women, especially young women determined to make the most of life in the midst of wartime, is a stretch for her. When Gwen arrives at the country estate where she is to be in charge, she finds that a Canadian regiment is also on the grounds as they await orders and her Land Girls have made themselves at home with the men. Initially Gwen wants no fraternizing, after all; the Land Girls are there to plant potatoes and do their part producing food for the war effort, but she quickly realizes that a lighter hand will return better results. It doesn't hurt that she is intrigued by Raley, the Canadian Commander. With the help of Jane, whose fiance is missing in the war, Gwen starts to soften, learning not only how to lead but also how to connect personally. When Gwen finds a lost garden, one not on any map of the estate and seemingly unknown to the others there, she sets about bringing it back to life, trying to understand the motivation behind building it. Divided into three distinct parts labeled loss, longing, and faith, Gwen tends to the hidden garden as she herself traverses these three states of experience and feeling alongside the corresponding plants blooming and fading.

Humphreys is a master at beautiful language and dreamy imagery and she has drawn a lovely, introspective novel about love and memory and connection. Like the growing season of the gardens, the time the characters have together is fleeting and there is a melancholic and elegiac feel to the novel. Watching Gwen bloom, watching her open her heart to others, to desire, to love is exquisitely done. She is certainly the central character of the novel, the other characters acting as accents. And it is Gwen's personal growth that is carefully detailed in quiet ways, like her giving each of the Land Girls the nickname of a potato variety, starting by calling them exclusively by these nicknames, but slowly coming to use the young women's real names as the book comes to its quiet close. Humphreys writes stunningly of nature and the poetry to be found in plants, weaving nature into this very human story of a desire for connection and love, tying Gwen and the gardens together wonderfully. This is a graceful and stunning novel, reaffirming for me that I should pull the rest of Humphreys's novels off my shelf sooner rather than later so I can submerge myself again in the beauty and magnificence that is her writing. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 30, 2016 |
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys is a deceptively simple story, but one of many layers which makes it difficult to describe. Set during World War II, this is less a story of war and more of a reflection on the emotions of war - love, longing and loss. The author obviously is a gardener and uses the plants as a metaphor for these very emotions.

The main character, Gwen Davis was a researcher at the Royal Horticultural Society in London but came to the country to oversee a group of Land Girls and to get away from the constant bombing and destruction of the city that she loved. When she arrives however, she realizes that she is a fish out of water with no ability to inspire those she is intended to lead. Other standout characters are Jane, who became a Land Girl with the hope that it would help her cope with the fact that her fiancé is missing in action and Captain Raley, who is a Canadian officer in charge of the soldiers billeted nearby. He is mourning the loss of a friend and pondering his own mortality as the days of combat approach.

This book packs an emotional punch that one would not expect from such a slender volume. This beautifully written story is lyrical and visual, yet there are moments of humor and a sense of discovery that makes the book very accessible. I highly recommend The Lost Garden. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 11, 2016 |
During WWII, London-born horticulturist Gwen Davis volunteers with the Women's Land Army to grow food for the nation on a rundown country estate in Devon. Between organizing the other female volunteers and getting to know the officers from a Canadian regiment stationed there, Gwen discovers a secret garden that mirrors her life and those around her. Restoring the garden, Gwen finds friendship, love and loss, as well as herself.

This story worked for me on so many levels. The writing was lovely, poetic and lush, much like the garden she described. I could truly smell the freshly dug soil, the dew on the grass, the roses. The story was heartbreaking and it's truth timeless. Vivid, sometimes funny, very moving and poignant, it's one of my favourites this year. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Gwen Davis, a horticulturalist, flees London during the Blitz of 1941 to oversee the training of female volunteers in the Land Army. Their task: revitalize the disused gardens of a Devon countryside estate for food production for the war effort. Upon her arrival, Gwen discovers she is a week late and all her charges are socializing with a regiment of Canadian soldiers posted to the estate while awaiting their call up to the front lines. As Gwen strives to overcome her own insecurities, she befriends the defacto leader of the land girls and the commanding officer of the Canadian regiment. This is a novel of love and friendship that is both poignant and endearing. Gwen is a lost soul who finds herself as she restores the lost gardens of a prior generation. What a lovely gem! I’ve had Coventry on my TBR shelf for the longest time, I’ll have to move it up the line. ( )
  Bluebird1 | Jan 13, 2016 |
It is 1941 and London is being bombed daily. Gwen leaves her job at the horticulture center and takes the position of training young land girls at an estate on the Devon coast. There job is to grow food for the home front.

In the estate house a group of soldiers are stationed, waiting to be posted. All have left things or people behind, many have acquaintances or loved ones who have already been killed, or presumed missing. For many of the girls this is the first time they have left home. Most are changed by the time they spend here. In restoring the gardens, Gwen finds a secret garden, a small abandoned place whose name is on a rock. Who planted this, a garden that doesn't even show up on the plans of the gardens?

Beautiful, beautiful writing, poetic at times, begging to be read again and again. A simple story at the beginning that gains depth as we get to know some the characters. What the war has cost these people, the understanding that they can't go back to prewar lives, that things will never again be the same. A touching story that with a melancholy tone, so many flowers described of which I had never known.

Virgins Woolf and her To the Lighthouse play an important part in this novel. The cover is simply stunning, in fact I found this to be a gorgeous package all around. Just love the way this author writes, so glad I have a few more of her books to read. ( )
  Beamis12 | Dec 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Like love, the novel is not quite definable and has moments of awkwardness or obviousness, but taken as a whole, is delicate and ambitious and, happily, even subtly comic on occasion.
added by lkernagh | editQuill & Quire, Joan Barfoot (Jul 1, 2002)
 
England in 1941 is the setting for this bittersweet story, where maturity means a stoic acceptance of the constant presence of death and the sadness of unfulfilled loves. Gwen Davis leaves London amid the burning wreckage left by the German bombings having given up her job at the Royal Horticultural Society to volunteer as a captain in the Women's Land Army in Devon. She will supervise a small group of young women whose task is to raise food for the war effort. Awkward with people and inexperienced with men, Gwen initially finds the nonagricultural aspects of her new job beyond her. Gradually she becomes friends with one of the young women and falls in love with the Canadian officer billeted with his men in the adjoining estate.
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist, Nancy Pearl
 
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Epigraph
Say this when you return, "I came by the wrong road, and saw the starved woods burn." - RICHARD CHURCH

Nothing will catch you. Nothing will let you go. We call it blossoming - the spirit breaks from you and you remain. - JORIE GRAHAM
Dedication
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What can I say about love?
Quotations
Every day weather blows in and out, alters the surface.  Sometimes it is stripped down to a single essential truth, the thing that is always believed, no matter what.  The seeds from which the garden has grown.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393324915, Paperback)

Leaving London to grow food for the war effort, Gwen discovers a mysterious lost garden and the story of a love that becomes her own.

This word-perfect, heartbreaking novel is set in early 1941 in Britain when the war seems endless and, perhaps, hopeless. London is on fire from the Blitz, and a young woman gardener named Gwen Davis flees from the burning city for the Devon countryside. She has volunteered for the Land Army, and is to be in charge of a group of young girls who will be trained to plant food crops on an old country estate where the gardens have fallen into ruin. Also on the estate, waiting to be posted, is a regiment of Canadian soldiers. For three months, the young women and men will form attachments, living in a temporary rural escape. No one will be more changed by the stay than Gwen. She will inspire the girls to restore the estate gardens, fall in love with a soldier, find her first deep friendship, and bring a lost garden, created for a great love, back to life. While doing so, she will finally come to know herself and a life worth living. Reading group guide included.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:29 -0400)

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In the spring of 1941 Gwen Davis leaves the chaos of wartime London to go to Devon. There her new job is to tend a neglected garden at a country house and to take charge of some Land Girls. As the harsh realities of war start to intrude, Gwen finds herself swept up into a world of passion.… (more)

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