Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries! To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.
From the bestselling author of The Tuscan Child comes a beautiful and heart-rending novel of a woman’s love and sacrifice during the First World War.
As the Great War continues to take its toll, headstrong twenty-one-year-old Emily Bryce is determined to contribute to the war effort. She is convinced by a cheeky and handsome Australian pilot that she can do more, and it is not long before she falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage.
When he is sent back to the front, Emily volunteers as a “land girl,” tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. The journals inspire Emily, and in the wake of devastating news, they are her saving grace. Emily’s lover has not only died a hero but has left her terrified—and with child. Since no one knows that Emily was never married, she adopts the charade of a war widow.
As Emily learns more about the volatile power of healing with herbs, the found journals will bring her to the brink of disaster, but may open a path to her destiny.
Rhys Bowen is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, who has published a range of award winning historical fiction novels. The Victory Garden, published in 2019, is her latest a standalone historical fiction title. Set in the last year of World War I, it is the story of a young woman who experiences love, loss, duty, commitment and independence, during a time of great uncertainty. It is a compelling period piece that demanded my undivided attention from the opening page, to the final word.
The Victory Garden is a stunning portrait of the final stages of the Great War, that places an emphasis on relations on the home front. It tells the story of a determined young woman, Emily Bryce, who wants to break free from the stiff clutches of her sheltered home and contribute to the war effort. When Emily encounters a charismatic Australian pilot, her life is turned upside down. She embraces her new independence and she falls desperately in love with the dashing Australian. Much to ire of her parents, who would rather Emily settle for a man close to home, Emily falls into the arms of her brave pilot. Emily accepts his proposal, just as he is shipped off for another death defying mission in the air. To keep her mind off the danger faced by her beloved, Emily throws all her energy into her work as a land girl. Emily’s role as a fully fledged land girl sees her posted to the stately home of Lady Charlton on a substantial estate. In the run down cottage on the estate grounds that Emily calls home, she makes a startling discovery. A legacy left by those who once resided in the cottage lives on. Emily is inspired to carry on their work, as a herbalist. It is a welcome distraction for Emily, especially when she discovers some shocking news about her Australian airman. Nursing a broken heart, Emily must pick up the pieces of her broken life, as she is about to face the biggest battle she has even known – alone.
The Victory Garden proved to be a truly delightful piece of historical fiction. I do love stories about the Great War, and Bowen’s book was a slight departure from the usual books I have read set in this time period. Bowen has based The Victory Garden in the latter stages of the war, a different move that I appreciated very much. It provided an alternative bird’s eye view of the war, with much emphasis placed on the impact of the Great War on the home front. Bowen focuses much of her book on the impact of the loss of loved ones had on those left behind. The devastating emotions experienced by mothers, fathers, grandmothers, siblings, loved ones and friends. Everyone was stretched to their emotional limit and Bowen does an excellent job of depicting the very heart of the feelings expressed by those left behind.
As this is a home front based novel, there is a strong emphasis on the work of the hardworking division known as the ‘Land Army’. These were able bodied women from all walks of life, across Britain, who bravely volunteered to do their bit for their country. Bowen outlines the huge dent left by the men who went away to fight in the war. The author also looks at the high death rate. As a result, a large gap was felt in the farming and agricultural areas of work. Emily, the lead, answers to this call, boldly defying her family who would rather she not work at all following the loss of their only son. This area of the book highlights the class differences and expectations that were prevalent at this time. Emily’s parents are absolutely horrified, rather than proud of their daughter’s work for the war.
Emily is an appealing lead who goes through quite a transformation as the book progresses. I saw The Victory Garden as an enlightening coming of age experience. Emily is naive and sheltered to begin with, but she grows in independence as the story unfolds. I enjoyed the romance and addition of the cheeky Australian airman, Robbie. This was a genuine and sweet romance.
The relationships between Emily and her many of the subsidiary characters form a significant portion of the narrative. We witness a strong bond, told mostly through letters, between Emily and her best friend Clarissa. There is also a focus on the often restrictive relations between Emily and her parents. Then there are the strong bonds formed between Emily and her fellow land army workmates. Finally, there is a lovely friendship forged between Emily and the aged Lady Charlton, the owner of the Devonshire based estate.
A side thread involving the work of a herbalist and taming a once lost herb garden, thanks to a journal unearthed by Emily, provides a nice offset to the war experiences. Emily really comes into her own through this experience and I appreciated following her journey. Along the way I learnt about the medicinal properties and the power herbs have to save lives. Bowen also outlines the pitfalls of this alternative form of medicine, through the persecution and lack of understanding of a female herbalist.
I really enjoyed my first experience of the work Rhys Bowen, who is a world renowned author. I am very tempted to select more of Bowen’s work in the future, based on my full appreciation of The Victory Garden.
**** 4.5 stars
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen was published on 12th February 2019 by Lake Union Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Victory Garden, Rhys Bowen, visit here.