The Forgotten Garden
Friday, September 23, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton
When she was only four years old, Nell was put on an ocean liner traveling from London to Australia all by herself. She’s adopted by a family in Australia and isn’t told the truth about her history until she’s 21. The novel unfolds the mystery of Nell’s life, while at the same time introducing us to her granddaughter Cassandra and a young woman from her past named Eliza.
The book flips back and forth between Eliza’s story at the turn of the century (1900-1913), Nell’s story (mainly 1975), and Cassandra’s in 2005. I loved all three of the main characters because they were survivors. They each had their own tragedies that influenced the choices they made, but those back stories didn’t hijack the main plot line, they just enhanced it.
There’s also a great supporting cast of characters, both good and bad guys. Each new character made the story richer, adding layers to the mystery. The pacing is wonderful. There is just the right amount of information revealed as you go along. Each answer introduces new questions to the reader and you don’t want to stop until you know the whole story. The style reminded me a bit of The Thirteenth Tale, Fingersmith and Shadow of the Wind, which in my opinion, is high praise.
When I started they book I thought it was going to be a sweet story about an English village or something. I had no idea it was a gothic mystery. It turned out to be just my kind of novel, one I didn’t want to put down.
I also really liked that the story isn’t steered by a romance. It is, first and foremost, the women’s stories. Their three lives are intertwined and as the book goes along we get to discover how. It doesn’t hurt that much of it is set in England. I’m a fan of the spooky, but gorgeous English countryside as a setting.
In addition to the mystery itself, the book addresses a few other issues. It questions how important your identity is. Does knowing who you are and where you come from matter? It also looks closely at the relationship between mothers and daughters.
All-in-all I loved the book. For me, it had the perfect balance of character driven story, mystery, and historical fiction, with a splash of fairy tale thrown in for good measure.
“Did those with passage booked on death’s silent ship always scan the dock for faces of the long departed?”
“That, my dear, is what makes a character interesting, their secrets.”
“I sometimes feel my entire life is a series of accidents and chances – not that I’m complaining. One can be very happy having relinquished all expectation of control.”
“You make a life out of what you have, not what you're missing."
“Cassandra always hid when she read, though she never quite knew why. It was as if she couldn’t quite shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong.”