The Lost Garden

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As The Lost Garden opens in the spring of 1941, Gwen Davis is escaping war-torn London and her inner demons. Gwen is a solitary, sad figure, who has never really known love. A researcher for the Royal Horticultural Society, plants seem to permeate every aspect of her being.

As the story unfolds, the interplay between the characters, the symbolism of roses, and the importance of words all converge in a vortex of imagery that is multidimensional. Gwen asks herself prophetically, “Can words go straight to the heart? . . . Can words be as direct as the scent of roses?” Author Helen Humphreys plants subtle seeds that blossom into meaning as the characters reveal themselves.

At Mosel, a large estate, Gwen is to supervise several young members of the Women’s Land Army hired to grow potatoes for the troops. Elsewhere on the grounds are Canadian soldiers, awaiting deployment. They are led by one handsome Captain Raley, who captures Gwen’s heart. As the gardens are cleared and planted, relationships take root and grow. Gwen discovers a secret garden on the estate, planted a generation before. It is a personal testament to love, planted in three parts: Loss, Longing, and Faith.

The lost garden becomes a metaphor for love, and for life on many levels. Each character who finds the garden has a unique interpretation of the original gardener’s intent. Gwen’s friends, Jane and Raley, focus on the losses in their lives and are consumed by grief. Both die tragic deaths. Gwen stays on at Mosel after the war. It is Gwen who has an epiphany in the secret garden. There she finds solace and peace amid the ruins of the garden and her life. There she is able to dig beneath the surface, to find her own personal truth amid the tangled white roses, in the garden of Faith.