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The Lost Garden

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,521 Ratings  ·  269 Reviews
The second novel from the acclaimed Canadian writer Helen Humphreys, author of the prize-winning Leaving Earth and a bestseller in Canada A beautifully crafted and bittersweet coming-of-age story
Paperback, 182 pages
Published March 15th 2004 by Bloomsbury (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Diane S ☔
Feb 19, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ar
...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
The only reason I'm not giving this a full five stars is because I thought the underlying metaphor was a little strained and heavy-handed at times; just a few times. But the language - oh, the language. Humphreys is a poet and it shows. And the longing, and the love, and the grief.

Originally, Humphreys wanted the novel to be a tribute to reading, not gardening - and it manages to be both. Set in rural England in 1941, The Lost Garden revolves around a 30-something lonely heart who loves, in no p
...more
Amy
What a lovely book! I realized halfway through, that I can think of at least 3 people locally who would love this book, though I might be reluctant to let it leave.

It's not a dramatic story, but love, loss and longing are such integral characters in this novel. Part mystery, part tribute to Virginia Woolf (indeed, how often have you written a letter to someone in your head?), part gardener's paradise and delight, little quips such as "I much prefer parsnips to people. They are infinitely more r
...more
endofmarch
Apr 18, 2010 endofmarch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, gardens-flowers
I love stories about gardens, that involve gardens, or where the setting is in a garden. So I could not resist picking up this book and having a look at it. The story sounded interesting and intriguing as well. And oh, how I wasn't dissapointed. I got so much more than what I was expecting.

It's England, 1941, and London is being destroyed by the Blitz. Gwen Davis, our narrator and protagonist, is a 35 year old horticulturist. Solitary and better with plants than she is with people, Gwen neverthe
...more
Will
May 18, 2011 Will rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is deeply lyrical, but it is also overwrought and implausible. Gwen, the central character, is supposed to be leading a land girl platoon in WWII, but spends her whole time mooning away, re-creating a secret garden where apparently nobody notices she isn't doing a stroke of useful farm work. There is a small contingent of Canadian soldiers camped in the farm's main building; the girls have loads of fun organizing dances for the men, but do not quite have torrid affairs, in fact it's all quite ...more
Becca
The Lost Garden affected me in a way I did not expect. I read a lot of books set in WWII, but the trials of war were almost secondary in this story, though it is definitely the backdrop. This story was more about finding oneself after losing oneself; about love, longing, secrets, passions, hope, and mindfulness in the face of tragic circumstances. Gwen pours all of her emotions into gardening. She's like a profiler - but of flowers. She creates profiles for each genus. She can get to the heart o ...more
Pat
Dec 06, 2011 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in less than a day and it was so beautiful that I was sorry that it came to an end. It is basically a love story, but not in any conventional sense. It is set in the second world war on an estate in Devon where a group of Land Army girls are based to reclaim a very overgrown garden and grow vegetables for the war effort. There is also a group of Canadian soldiers waiting to be sent to France to start fighting. Helen Humphreys tells the story in a clear and concise way so that wo ...more
Sarah
Jul 21, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a way, this is a love letter to Virginia Woolf. But, it's so much more than that. And, it's so well done. I couldn't possibly do it justice in a goodreads review.

Just...
*love*
Wendy
Jun 06, 2015 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written meditation upon love, longing and loss -- conveyed through the flora of an abandoned English garden during the Second World War.The characters are surprisingly relatable and well-developed for a short novel, although what most resonated with me are the setting, atmosphere, and many poetically expressed passages -- many of which I marked in pencil to revisit. I did feel as if the details in the final chapters were a bit too compact, making the final pages seem rushed compare ...more
Joanne
Aug 02, 2016 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely, poetic book this is. While the gardens are clearly symbolic of love, loss and longing, the gentle story envelopes you so softly that you don't realize until the very end how sad this book is.

Helen Humphreys has a way of writing short, poignant books that pack such an emotional punch as to leave you reeling. Her descriptions are utterly beautiful. Every time I finish one of her books, I find myself just holding it in my hand, staring off into space while I absorb the impact of her
...more
Trelawn
Closer to 3.5 stars. The plot was incidental here, this is a book about loss and longing and in that, it succeeds.
Bev
Mar 06, 2011 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys is a beautifully written book. At first it may seem a bit disjointed and difficult-going. But looking deeper, the reader finds that like, the lost garden of the title, the story is multi-layered and the best layers are hidden beneath the weeds and neglect.

Gardener Gwen Davis comes to the Devon countryside to lead a group from the Women's Land Army. These women have volunteered to grow vegetables for the war effort. Gwen is shy and has little self-confidence an
...more
Fluffy Flowers
I don't know about you, but when I go out of town for a couple days it seems like I'm completely loaded down with stuff. And I don't mean things like hairdryers and extra clothes. Who needs a change of pants anyway? No, what I'm talking about is stuff that is essential to life. Stuff that makes the days fun. I'm talking about craft projects and books.

Even for a short trip, one essential thing is a choice of craft projects and books. I never know what mood I'll be in while I'm away so I've always
...more
Mrsgaskell
Aug 02, 2010 Mrsgaskell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful, poetically written novella. It’s the second book I’ve read by the author and I will actively seek out more. As in Coventry, I found that this author has a gift for description; scenes and locations spring visually to life.

It’s the spring of 1941 and Gwen Davis has decided to leave London because she cannot bear to see any more of the destruction of her beloved city as the Blitz continues. A horticulturalist with the Royal Horticultural Society, she leaves for an estate in De
...more
Alice
Jun 09, 2016 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Lost Garden" is a gentle, exquisite novel--beautifully written.
The language, the beauty of the simple things that grow, come to life in Helen Humphrey's writing.

Gwen Davis, who has never known love or intimacy, leaves the Royal Horiticulure Society in London during the Blitz and her work on cankers in parsnips (yes, cankers in parsnips), to work with the Women's Land Army on an estate in Devon, where soldiers await their orders.

Friendship and understanding develop, as the women learn to wo
...more
Marne Wilson
On the surface, this is the story of a group of women who grew potatoes for the war effort on an abandoned estate in Devon during World War II. But if you want to know facts, like how many potatoes could be planted per acre or how much the women were paid each month, this probably isn't the book for you. The tone, instead, is elegaic, teetering very close to melodrama in places but never quite getting there. Gwen Davis, the 35-year-old narrator who has never been in love and has devoted her life ...more
 Barb Bailey

This novel is set in early 1941 in Britan . 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 land 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
...more
Robyn
Mar 09, 2011 Robyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Love is tested everyday, & what is not renewed is lost. One chooses either 2 care more or to care less. Once the choice is to come less: then there is no stopping the momentum of goodbye. Each loved thing slips away. there is no stopping it."
An unexpected ending to which i am surprised and feel cheated - i do not like the outcome. I do not feel every fall when the plants go dormant they completely die like a person. My pear tree looses leaves but is still alive and there to continue to grow
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Marlis
I'm not sure how I felt about this book. The writing was certainly lovely but the story was just so sad, so hopeless. It's not how I like to feel when I finish a book. Plus there were some elements of mystery in the book that turned out so oddly, I just couldn't understand why they were part of the story at all.
Becky
Feb 13, 2012 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was just OK. I wanted to like it more, but didn't really care for the author's writing style. The premise was good, but the way the story was written just didn't draw me in to the characters. The only reason I finished was because the book is only 182 pages and I kept trying to give it a chance. Diane, you will be getting this one back for the book sale. :-)
Suanne Laqueur
I like gardening and I like books about England during World War II. This book combines both and while it wasn't the best thing I've ever read, it was quietly touching and nicely written. A solid three-star read.
Mila
Nov 12, 2008 Mila rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bob
I didn’t like Gwen the main character, no passion, didn’t like the way she named people with potato names. Eglington Rose leaves “fragrant like apples” interested us for a minute.
Lana Hasper
Feb 01, 2016 Lana Hasper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreakingly beautiful.
Elsabe
Mar 29, 2013 Elsabe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended and bought for my mother and in law.
منال
جميلة جداً.
Pamela
Feb 06, 2016 Pamela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(view spoiler) ...more
Laura (booksnob)
I loved The Lost Garden for its quiet beauty and strength. What a beautiful, heart-wrenching novel. It amazes me that the author was able to load this tiny volume of 182 pages with such full content. It was full of mystery, love, loss, beauty, joy, war, longing. I couldn't put this book down. I thought of my grandparents frequently while reading this book. My grandfather was stationed in England to prepare and participate in D-Day and the European campaign. He lived in a castle in Belgium for pa ...more
M
M If you have read and enjoyed A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr, then you will like this book. Different war, but similar plot in which a troubled person leaves her London home for a Girls Land Army assignment in the Devon countryside.
Lara Ga
Mar 12, 2017 Lara Ga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anche durante la guerra sbocciano i fiori: Il giardino perduto
La recensione completa sul mio blog al link https://ilgustoproibitodellozenzero.b...
Wendy
Original Review posted on my blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty:
http://www.literaryfeline.com/2016/07...

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys
W.W. Norton & Company, 2003
Fiction (Historical); 208 pgs

The Lost Garden is a quiet novel about a woman who longs for love, who has never really experienced love, and when she does . . . Well, it is beautiful and sad all rolled into one. The novel is set during World War II and is about a group of women who volunteered for the Women's Land Army in an effort t
...more
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Helen Humphreys is the author of four books of poetry, five novels, and one work of creative non-fiction. She was born in Kingston-on-Thames, England, and now lives in Kingston, Ontario with her dog, Hazel.

Her first novel, Leaving Earth (1997), won the 1998 City of Toronto Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her second novel, Afterimage (2000), won the 2000 Rogers Writers
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“The heart is a river. The act of writing is the moving water that holds the banks apart, keeps the muscle of words flexing so that the reader can be carried along by this movement. To be given space and the chance to leave one's earthly world. Is there any greater freedom than this?” 17 likes
“What I've always found interesting in gardens is looking at what people choose to plant there. What they put in. What they leave out. One small choice and then another, and soon there is a mood, an atmosphere, a series of limitations, a world.” 8 likes
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