The only reason I'm not giving this a full five stars is because I thought the underlying metaphor was a little strained and heavy-handed at times; just a few times. But the language - oh, the language. Humphreys is a poet and it shows. And the longing, and the love, and the grief.
Originally, Humphreys wanted the novel to be a tribute to reading, not gardening - and it manages to be both. Set in rural England in 1941, The Lost Garden
revolves around a 30-something lonely heart who loves, in no particular order: Virginia Woolf's [b:To The Lighthouse|59716|To the Lighthouse|Virginia Woolf|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1346239665s/59716.jpg|1323448]; her mother, who does not love her back; a Canadian soldier stationed in a transition house up the road, who cannot love her back; a younger, very sad woman named Jane who has been assigned to work with her in the "Woman's Land Army" and who shows her what love looks like; and the definitive guide to roses, a massive tome called The Genus Rosa
, which she uses as a sexual surrogate (it does not love her back).
She relates better to parsnips than people, but ultimately, she learns how to love and it - as much as the gardens into which she pours all her own nurturing, regenerative love - saves her from the death that surrounds her.
This book is steeped in death. The amount of death and decay is positively astonishing. And that means it's sad - yes. But also, it's not sad at all. It is full of hope and growth (personal and floral). We are left with this sort of triumphant and whole sense of love and life, which will bloom again amidst death. It's a little miracle, this book, like the flowers and gardens and books and characters within it.
PS - the official description of this book does it a great injustice. I don't know that this mini-review rectifies it at all, but don't let either from discouraging you from reading this little gem.