Harriet Evans has written 12 novels but the first I have read is her most recent, The Garden of Lost and Found. A family saga spanning four generations, it is a long read but a rewarding one.
The main setting is Nightingale House, home of artist Ned Horner, his wife Lydia and their children. The garden is the scene for his famous painting, The Garden of Lost and Found. When the novel opens in 1918 Ned is setting fire to it. He dies four days later of influenza and the mystery surrounding the work of art unfolds. In 2014 Lydia’s great granddaughter, Juliet, an expert in Victorian art, finds out that she has inherited the house from her grandmother, Stella. Juliet is separating from her husband so escapes to the dilapidated house to start a new life with her three children.
Juliet finds a job in a museum and begins to unravel the circumstances of the lost painting.
Her story alternates with that of Ned and Lydia and we also go back to the 1800s to learn about Lydia’s childhood and the importance of the dolls’ house, constructed in the image of Nightingale House and played with by children of each generation.
A joy of the novel is the evocative description of the house and its dovecote together with the sensual creation of the garden’s colour, sounds and fragrance. Juliet’s grandmother has left letters to Juliet advising her how to care for the garden throughout the seasons and Juliet finds great comfort in these tasks. Highly recommended.
This review was written by Roz Masters and first appeared in the Apr/May20 edition of OVL Magazine.