cover image The Kew Gardens Girls

The Kew Gardens Girls

Posy Lovell. Putnam, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-32823-1

Lovell, the pseudony of Kerry Barrett (The Smuggler’s Daughter), debuts with an engrossing exploration of the suffrage movement in WWI-era London. In 1915, Louisa Taylor, 35, and 16-year-old Ivy Adams are hired to work at London’s Kew Gardens to replace men who left for the war. Louisa and Ivy bond over their membership in the women’s suffrage movement, a secret they keep from their employer, who remains bitter about the movement’s role in setting a pavilion at Kew on fire. After Louisa shames their pacifist coworker Bernie Yorke by planting white feathers in his coat, as part of the “white feather campaign” against men suspected of not enlisting, Bernie loses his job and Ivy breaks with Louisa to help Bernie go into hiding and avoid conscription. Later, Louisa’s guilt over exposing Bernie leads her to help him register as a conscientious objector and avoid the draft. Ivy and Louisa then join up with another Kew Gardens worker on a campaign for equal wages for the women gardeners, and support one another through the war’s tragedies. Lovell expertly instills the fictional narrative with details of the discord in the suffrage movement between pacifists and militants, and the ill-treatment of men who refused to fight. Historical fans will devour this down-to-earth page-turner. Agent: Felicity Trew, Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency. (Apr.)