This is the first of the fiction-with-a-supernatural-twist novels I promised to review, and the third of the books recommended by my friend who participates in a book club of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. (See blog entry of July 1, 2015.)
I loved The Lost Garden! It takes place in 1941 and examines the impact of World War II on English civilians. (No one in England is really a civilian at this point in time. Anyone may be assigned to a job deemed to be essential to the war effort.) London is being torn apart by bombing – the psychological pressure is intensifying. Fear of invasion runs rampant.
Gwen leaves her research job in London to supervise a group of young women who have been assigned to grow potatoes on a disused estate. Nearby, soldiers are quartered to await transfer to the battlefield.
The main themes of the book are love and loss. Gwen finds an abandoned garden of astonishing beauty and mystery. She falls in love and watches others love and suffer.
“The Lost Garden” is full of horticulture, especially taxonomy, infused seamlessly with the plot. There are also extensive literary references. Gwen is obsessed with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and also with The Genus Rosa by Ellen Wilmott.
All this adds up to a moody, thoughtful atmosphere. The characters emerge slowly. I won’t give away anything about the “haunting” of the estate. Read and enjoy!