Set in World War II England, “The Lost Garden” follows the painfully shy and awkward horticulturalist Gwen Davis to the Devon countryside where she’s been put in charge of a group of young woman to grow potatoes for the war effort. There, Gwen discovers several estate gardens designed around themes of longing and loss, words that mysteriously appear on stones. Gardens, of course, provide fertile ground for metaphors and both horticultural and emotional blossoming, death and regeneration are the novel’s central themes. A delicate new friendship blooms and passion for a beautiful, aloof soldier consumes.
Humphreys is also a poet, however, her quiet prose slide too often toward the commonplace and despite some beautiful images — an albino fox that, ghostlike, steals chickens in the night — the lack of narrative force make for pretty, bland reading.