The Kew Gardens Girls

Written by Posy Lovell
Review by Susan Sandberg

Ivy and Louisa must hide their silver hammer brooches when working at Kew Gardens in London or they might be fired. The tiny symbols would identify them as Suffragettes, a women’s rights group that had previously damaged two Kew buildings in their fight to gain the vote. As the first females hired as gardeners, they have to prove they are as capable as the males they replaced who left to fight in WWI. Secrets from their personal lives might also jeopardize their jobs or expose them to danger. Soon they are joined by Win, whose husband is away on military duty.

Despite their diverse backgrounds, the three women bond as they weed and water flower beds, borders, and bushes to keep Kew Gardens blooming during the war. Yet their efforts seem doomed: One of them can’t read, another has never been a gardener, and the third is hiding out from her family. The gardens are their haven until they discover an injustice that infuriates them. As Suffragettes, they must protest, but will they lose their jobs? The women find fault with each other’s beliefs and struggle to accept their differences. Topsy-turvy relationships with the men in their lives add tension and plot twists, tantalizing the reader about the outcomes.

Based on historical events, the novel humanizes three fictional women in the suffrage movement and the turbulent social changes affecting them. The supporting stars of this heartwarming story are the famous gardens, orchid house, palm house, and rose beds. The author has seeded the novel with phrases such as peonies representing happy marriage and nasturtiums meaning patriotism. Even non-gardeners will be inspired to browse flower catalogues and grow a garden as a tribute to courageous characters like Ivy, Louisa, and Win.