6 Book Club Novels Where Past and Present Collide

November 22 2021
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As I began reading The Last Garden in England with Book Club Favorites this November, I was immediately enchanted by the brilliant way Julia Kelly teeters between timelines. Her incredible writing alternating time periods got me thinking about some other dual timeline storylines I’ve enjoyed. Jumping between points in history provides an exciting element to fiction, often tying the story together in a vibrant way. If you’re also enjoying how this month’s book club pick was constructed, here are some other books with multiple timeline plots to unravel.

The Last Garden in England
by Julia Kelly

First, of course, we have THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND itself. In Julia Kelly’s latest novel, three women are linked by one very special garden. In present day, Emma Lovett has taken on the project of restoring the famous Highbury House estate gardens, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. As Emma digs deeper into this enchanted garden, she uncovers some long hidden secrets of the estate’s past. Jumping between 1907, 1944, and present day, THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND chronicles the history of this treasured land through gorgeously written details of each time period.

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The Last Garden in England
Julia Kelly

From the author of the international bestsellers The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes “a compelling read, filled with lovable characters and an alluring twist of fates” (Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife) about five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special garden.

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

“Gorgeously written and rooted in meticulous period detail, this novel is vibrant as it is stirring. Fans of historical fiction will fall in love with The Last Garden in England” (Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind).

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Recluse Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo lived a glamorous and scandalous past. But now, she is finally ready to tell her story. Despite how coveted and juicy Evelyn’s secrets are, she chooses an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant, to tell her story to. Monique listens enrapt as Evelyn chronicles her journey from 1950s stardom to her decision to leave show business in the 80s, as well as the seven husbands she married along the way. Readers will not only love the glorious tales of a Hollywood starlet, but will also be astounded with the way Taylor Jenkins Reid weaves the story lines of these two women together.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid

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The German Girl
by Armando Lucas Correa

Fleeing Nazi-occupied Germany in 1939, 11-year-old Hannah Rosenthal, her family, and her community, German Jews, are promised a safe passage to Cuba on the SS St. Louis. But as their ocean liner travels on, they realize that their journey is tragically not the refuge they expected. Flash-forward to New York in 2014, where Anna Rosen receives a package from her great-aunt Hannah in Cuba. The contents of this mysterious birthday gift inspire 12-year-old Anna to travel to Havana with her mother to uncover the secret of their family’s sorrowful past.

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The German Girl
Armando Lucas Correa

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The Forgotten Home Child
by Genevieve Graham

Alternating between 2018 and 1936, THE FORGOTTEN HOME CHILD is inspired by real, heartbreaking events. In present day, 97-year-old Winnifred Ellis knows her time on earth is coming to an end. For years, she swore the secrets of her past would die with her, but when her great-grandson Jamie asks about her family tree, she decides she can no longer tell a lie. In a flashback to the 1930s, 15-year-old Winny runs away from an abusive stepfather. Without a place in the world to call home, she is swept up in a group of misfit children roaming the streets of Liverpool. After getting caught in a crime, the girls are sent to a local home for orphans and forgotten children in the city. Winny’s hope of a better life is crushed when she learns she’ll be headed to Canada to work for a family as an indentured servant (and not as a member of their family as she had expected). As Winny navigates her harsh new reality, she clings to the hope that she will one day reunite with her friends.

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The Forgotten Home Child
Genevieve Graham

The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.

2018

At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago...

1936

Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.

But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.

Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Lost Apothecary
by Sarah Penner

Three lives across centuries are tied together in the magical THE LOST APOTHECARY. In present-day London, Caroline Parcewell is heartbroken over the knowledge of her husband James’s infidelity. But when she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, her entire life is transformed. Caroline learns that she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. Back in 1791, a once respected healer, Nella, switched up her sorcery for a darker purpose: poison. When women would rather kill than live another moment with their treacherous men, they come to Nella. Now, as Caroline navigates this 18th-century mystery, the two timelines will collide in a stunning twist of fate.

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The Lost Apothecary
Sarah Penner

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MENTIONED IN:

Author Picks: 6 Literary Quotes That Stuck with Me

By Ash Davidson | November 29, 2021

8 Courtroom Stories with Complicated Outcomes

By Sarah Woodruff | November 24, 2021

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By Sarah Walsh | November 23, 2021

6 Book Club Novels Where Past and Present Collide

By Holly Claytor | November 22, 2021

6 Intriguing Novels About Lesser-Known Historical Figures and Events

By Chris Gaudio | November 19, 2021

Staff Picks: 5 Books We’re Extra Thankful For This Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 18, 2021

Close
The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

It’s 1947 and American college student Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and being banished to Europe by her parents. In addition, Charlie still desperately hopes that her cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, is still alive. So, once she reaches Europe, Charlie runs away to London, determined to find out what happened to her family member. In an alternate timeline, back in 1915, Eve Gardiner was recruited to work as a spy in the real-life Alice Network against the Germans in the Great War. Thirty years later, Eve is haunted by the betrayal of her past. When a young American shows up at her door, searching for someone she hasn’t seen in years, it launches a mission for the truth.

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The Alice Network
Kate Quinn

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Photo credit: puhimec/iStock

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