Book Reviews

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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The Victory Garden
By: Rhys Bowen
Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld

Published: February 2019
Published by: Audible Studios
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5


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.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

The first World War made for big changes in the traditional roles women played inside and outside of the home. With their men fighting in the trenches, they stepped up to ensure the wheels of the home front kept turning. As fascinating as a soldier’s story is, I am very interested in reading from a women’s perspective. This is what drew me into reading The Victory Garden.

In this novel, we follow Emily Bryce who, against her parents wishes joins the Women’s Land Army. I had previously heard of this volunteer organization during World War II, but not from the era this book covers. I was eager to learn more about these women, even if it was from a fictional perspective.

Unfortunately I wish that there would have been more focus on Emily’s time in the Women’s Land Army. Instead her love story and its aftermath became more of a focus. Then we are introduced to the inhabitants of a small Devonshire village, an old widow and an old medicine woman’s journals. There were so many potential storylines, that it became overwhelming. The medicine women’s journals and Emily’s interest in the herb garden, was enough to make a novel, itself.

I enjoyed the friendship Emily made with her fellow Land Army members, however her romance with the Australian pilot didn’t feel as authentic as I hoped it would. Saskia Maarleveld’s narration was also enjoyable and I look forward to listening to more from her in the future.

Rhys Bowen is an author I would recommend, however The Victory Garden didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

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