The Lost Garden

The Lost Garden

Book - 2002
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Evocative, if occasionally clunky, Humphreys's third novel (following Afterimage) is the story of an Englishwoman's search for her place in a world permeated by war. The narrator, 35-year-old Gwen Davis, is a horticulturist who flees bombed-out WWII London to manage a team of "land girls"-women who grow vegetables as part of the war effort-at a country estate. She struggles to manage her wayward charges, who are more interested in the Canadian soldiers billeted in the main house than in cultivating potatoes, and writes letters in her head to her idol Virginia Woolf, whose recent death has left her feeling bereft. She also tries to seduce the world-weary, hard-drinking Captain Raley, who has a secret of his own that dooms their relationship. Though her conflicts pale next to those of the soldiers waiting to be posted to battle and even those of her new friend, Jane, whose cousin is a casualty of war and whose fiance is missing in action, it is Gwen's quiet self-discovery that is at the center of the novel. Humphreys renders convincingly her first, fleeting experience of deep friendship and love. Unfortunately, the story is sometimes marred by overwrought or cloying prose, though Humphreys's language also has its moments of elegance (during the blitz, "houses become holes. Solids become spaces. Anything can disappear overnight"). Humphreys doesn't quite have the narrative energy of Pat Barker and Jane Gardam, but fans of those authors may enjoy this exploration of the impact of WWII on English life.
Publisher: Toronto : HarperFlamingoCanada, 2002
Edition: 1st ed
Description: 184 p
ISBN: 9780002005111
Branch Call Number: Hump


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Feb 12, 2018

Almost too beautiful writing. Quick read. Ending came too not satisfying. Sad.

Apr 23, 2017

Was hoping for a little more from this book. Skipped alot of paragraphs.Rather dull.

WVMLStaffPicks Feb 01, 2015

It is the spring of 1941. Gwen Davis, a shy young horticulturist is sent down to Devon to help with the war effort. Her job is to turn an old overgrown estate garden into fields of potatoes and vegetables that will help feed England. Her charges are a group of young girls more interested in romance and the Canadian soldiers billeted at the estate than gardening. Gwen discovers a hidden garden full of past mysteries and longings and finds herself facing the unbearable risks of love.

lysiasroad Mar 01, 2013

One of my favourite books and author. The writing is beautiful and really does transport you to 1940's war torn England.

Feb 02, 2013

I found this a very disappointing book.
Gwen is a totally self centered person,
not interested enough to even find out the other land girl's names. She spends
most of her time in the 'secret garden"
not training the girls to produce food for the war effort. Britain is fighting for its
very existence and she doesn't seem to care. I will not waste my time reading
another book my this writer.

booklady413 Aug 14, 2012

If you are a 1940's fiction lover like me, you will love this book. In addition any anglofile or flower lover would also enjoy this read.

Dec 07, 2011

I felt like i had seen this story. the images were so vivid. It would make an incredible BBC production!

Oct 01, 2011

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and storyline of this short novel. Humphreys' story of love and loss during the Blitz is intregruing, poetic, and touching. (April 2005)

Jul 06, 2011

Although short in length, this gem is long on thoughts regarding longing, loss and faith. I was truly moved by it - not every book is meant to be 'a thrilling read'.

Apr 05, 2011

When Gwen escapes blitz stricken London in 1941, she finds solace with an assignment with the Land Girls growing vegetables for the war effort. On a neglected Devon estate she also finds a secret garden that she starts to restore in her free time. The garden's flowers start by blooming flowers for love, then loss, then longing. And in Gwen finds a parallel in this sequence while she gets to know the Canadian soldier that is billeted up the road. With everything in wartime so temporary, they both find solace in each other's company. Wonderfully spare prose delivers a story steeped in the lore of plants and the heart's true desire.

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booklady413 Aug 14, 2012

"The point, dear Davis, is that sometimes what you want is no more than to put your name beside someone else's, someone whom you love. Stretch your name out alongside theirs as though it was you, lying next to them."

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