Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

First line: It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she'd been told.

From the back cover: A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book - a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the dooms Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

My thoughts: This was my book club's selection for our April meeting and I absolutely loved it. Our discussion of the book was interesting and lead to many different takes on some the themes of the book, mainly, would you have told your child about her past?

The Forgotten Garden is a multi-layered novel with complicated characters and a highly intriguing storyline that attempts to solve a mystery that occurred long ago. The story is told through the perspectives of three women: Nell, who is found when she is four years old, abandoned on a dock in Australia, with very sparse clues to her identity; Eliza, who is the mysterious Authoress whom Nell vaguely remembers and whose book of fairy tales is in Nell's tiny suitcase; and Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter, who tries to put together all the pieces of the puzzle after her grandmother's death. What I loved about this atmospheric, fairytale-like novel was that Morton tells the story of these different, but connected, women, but she doesn't give everything up right away. She weaves back and forth between 2005, 1975 and 1900, between Australia, London and Cornwall and gradually reveals the story, peeling back the layers bit by bit to reveal the truth a little at a time. Morton tells her story not only through the actions of her characters but also through fairy tales interspersed throughout the book and provide clues to the mystery's final solution. At times, the book reminded me a little of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (which is going on the to-reread list) and then low and behold - there is a cameo of this author in the book. 

While the size of the book is a bit daunting (it's almost 600 pages), I read it in two days - I was hooked from the first page and had a hard time putting it down. This is the first book I've read by Kate Morton, and I will definitely be checking out her other books.

(I purchased this book.)


  1. I'm glad to see this was such a great book! Kate Morton seems like an amazing author though I've never read any of her works. I have The House at Riverton, but I really want The Forgotten Garden!

  2. Lovely review, I am glad to hear that you loved it so much! I purchased this book a while back but I just haven't had a chance to read it yet. I am really looking forward to it though!

  3. I've had this on my shelf for a long time. I really want to make time to read it now. It sounds great!

  4. Great review, and nice to read about it again.

  5. Great review! Kate Morton has become one of my favorite authors. I really loved her new novel, The Distant Hours.

  6. I am also reading it for my book club's discussion next week. It is wonderful. I can't wait for our club to meet, and discuss. I usually don't read books this long, so I was a bit nervous. I am 3/4 done, and love it. Will recommend it on goodreads. I plan to read Distant Hours, and will be reading her next one. It will be out next year. Thanks for the post. It is wonderful.


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