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The Lost Garden

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,794 ratings  ·  304 reviews
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Fleeing war-torn London in 1941, gardener Gwen Davis leaves the "wild, lovely clutter" of the city for the safe haven of the English countryside. Unwilling to watch her beloved city crumble under the assault of incendiary German bombs, she accepts a position at a requisitioned estate in Devon, supervising the farming of potatoes
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 17th 2003 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2002)
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Diane S ☔
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
The Lost Garden is prose that sings like poetry. Helen Humphreys brings so much emotion and soul to her writing that you feel the angst of her characters, their loss, their sorrow, their hope.

Gwen Davis flees war-torn London for an estate called Mosel in Devon. Mosel has been requisitioned to be used to grow food for the war effort, and Gwen, a horticulturist, and is put in charge of a group of volunteers for the Women’s Land Army who are to work the gardens. Shortly before leaving London, Gwen
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
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had read and enjoyed two of Helen Humphreys' books prior to picking up her quiet masterpiece, The Lost Garden. This short novel, which is set in Devon in early 1941, is described variously as 'a haunting story of love in a time of war', and 'both heartrending and heart-mending'. In 1941, Humphreys writes, 'the war seems endless and, perhaps, hopeless.' The focus of her third novel is to explore the effects of war upon the population on the Home Front.

The protagonist and narrator of the novel,
Jess (Primrose)
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first Humphreys' book and it won't be my last. This was a hauntingly written novel in a quiet and profound manner that made me stop in my tracks several times while reading to absorb the words in my head. Set outside of London in 1941, the descriptions of the war's destruction and death are horrific but even more compelling are the stories of the individuals living it. Humphreys' gives voice to a regiment of Canadian soldiers billeted at an English manor awaiting deployment into the bleak fra ...more
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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Ubik 2.0
Genus Rosa

Ho scelto questo libro perché anni fa fui sorpreso molto positivamente da Cani selvaggi, l’unico altro romanzo che abbia letto dell’autrice canadese.
Il giardino segreto non è alla stessa altezza: anche qui si respirano, è vero, le delicate atmosfere che la Humphreys, poetessa oltre che scrittrice, sa infondere nelle proprie opere e i personaggi sono convincenti e abbastanza originali da suscitare interesse. A differenza dell’opera precedente (in realtà posteriore di un paio d’anni) le
May 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.

Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Romanzo che ho letto per partecipare a un GdL. Io non l'avrei scelto. Ha avuto successo, e Helen Humpreys è un'autrice nota e pluripremiata; ma io non ci ho trovato proprio niente. Inconsistente, evanescente, acquoso. Una zitella inglese va a vivere e a lavorare, per sfuggire ai bombardamenti su Londra, in una tenuta di campagna, dove scopre un giardino segreto dedicato all'amore. Si innamora di un capitano che abita nelle vicinanze, ma in amore è sfortunata e del resto la guerra incombe. Non c' ...more
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
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
"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
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Closer to 3.5 stars. The plot was incidental here, this is a book about loss and longing and in that, it succeeds.
Janet Aileen
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lovely prose, lovely characters, and an interesting, tender plot with a heartbreaking ending. I am a lifelong garderer, the main character is a horticultural researcher. Her confusion at how to handle the estate gardens was, therefore, understandable. I wanted to be there to guide the team and dig into the project. I would have loved it....herbs, vegetables, companion plantings...sigh.
Jenny Jaeckel
A sad, poetic, unusual short novel about a head gardener, Gwen Davis, in charge of a corps of young women in England, stationed at an old estate to grow potatoes for the war effort during WWII, next to a group of Canadian soldiers about to be posted. Gwen discovers a hidden garden, and other mysteries of love and loss, reflecting on her past, present and future, while communing intimately with the garden plants and flowers, and lines of prose and poetry from favorite authors like Virginia Woolf, ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"With a haunting story of love in a time of war. Helen Humphreys has created a novel that is both heartrending and heart-mending. Horticulturalist Gwen Davis has fled the Blitz in London for a rundown estate in Devon as a volunteer with the Women's Land Army. There, she must organize a group of young women who are to grow food for the war effort. Posted on the estate as well is a Canadian regiment awaiting orders for the front. These three months together are a time of rural escape for them and ...more
Fluffy Flowers
Aug 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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

This book was clearly not for me. I'm glad that others enjoyed it, but I didn't. I really didn't . To be honest, I read the first 60 pages and thought it to be really boring and somewhat annoying. The writer's style just doesn't suit me. She kept jumping with one idea to the next, and I found that confusing and annoying. Also, I did not particularly like Gwen. She isn't the kind of heroine I like. So, after 60 pages, I decided it was enough and just skimmed through the rest of the book, to deter
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
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
"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
Nov 15, 2009 rated it liked it
The novel gathers some lovely things together, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Wilmott's rose book, a mysterious garden. I loved the author's love for them. The characters were a mix of thin and compelling. Jane got some great lines, and Gwen grew on me. Her realization that she has been too defensive in her dealings with the other women working at the garden was resonant. Captain Raley never seemed well rounded enough to justify her fascination with him.
Oct 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
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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
“This is what I know about love, That it is tested every day, and what is not renewed is lost. One chooses either to care more or to care less. Once the choice is to care less, then there is no stopping the momentum of goodbye. Each loved thing slips away. There is no stopping it.” 26 likes
“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
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