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The Victory Garden | Rhys Bowen | 2019, 353 pages | Historical fiction
It is 1918 in England and the Bryce family has lost their beloved son and brother in the Great War. His sister Emily wants to do her part and volunteer as a nurse. But her wealthy parents (her father is a judge), won’t hear of it.
Emily and her mother visit the wounded men who are convalescing on an estate nearby. Emily meets an impudent red-haired Australian pilot, Robbie Kerr. There is an instant attraction. Soon they have fallen in love and Emily accepts his marriage proposal. Before they can be wed, Robbie returns to the war, leaving Emily worried for him and longing for his return.
Against her parents’ wishes, Emily volunteers as a “land girl.” The land girls help local farmers with their livestock, bringing in crops of hay, digging potatoes, etc. There are no young farmhands to help – they have all gone to war. Emily makes good friends and learns to do menial jobs which her parents think are “beneath her.” Soon Emily and two other girls are sent to Devonshire to work for Lady Charlton to restore her estate’s overgrown gardens. They are given a decrepit cottage to live in with broken, dusty furniture, no water, light or even candles. The land girls begin to fix up the cottage and garden. They soon make friends with the village women.
Emily finds an old journal with herbal recipes in it. She begins to make salves for burns and other recipes for minor ailments. But many years ago these actions caused the journal writer to be labeled a “witch” by superstitious villagers. And even though Emily is making the healing recipes for good, it could be a very dangerous path for her to go down.
This is a captivating story about a determined young woman who learns that she must fight for the people and things that she cares about in a rapidly changing world.