The Forgotten Garden

Friday, September 23, 2011


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.”

22 comments:

Nymeth said...

I wasn't at all a fan of this one (mostly because I didn't get on with Morton's writing), but I know I'm in the minority. I'm glad it worked for you!

Jillian said...

I LOVED this book. I am so happy you liked it as well!! :D

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I thought this was very good as well. I need to read Distant Hours soon as well.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Morton does gothic very well! I loved The Distant Hours and The House at Riverton. The only reason I haven't read this one is because my library doesn't have it on audio. The only negative thing I'll say about her is that her books do tend to be just a wee bit too long.

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

This book sounds fabulous. Adding it to the TBR now.

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I loved this one! Her writing is amazing. I need to read Distant Hours and The House of Riverton. Both are waiting patiently for me.

Kailana said...

I loved this book! I keep wanting to reread it, but I should probably read her other books first.

Joanne @ Books, Belles and Beaux said...

Great review -- I read and loved her other two novels and I'm saving this one....I have it on my shelf and hope to get to it soon.

Trisha said...

Getting a surprise gothic mystery sounds wonderful!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I'm so glad so many others loved this one.

Nymeth - That's a bummer, but that's the beauty of books. They can be perfect for one person and just not work at all for another.

Sandy - She was a bit long-winded, but she kept me interested.

Joanne - That's good to hear. I haven't read her others, but I want to.

Trisha - Best surprise ever.

Mumsy said...

Is this the one that is sort of connected with The Secret Garden? She does do Gothic well, but I think I have moved away from Gothic now...it fails to thrill me. But I still love hearing people talk about books that hit that exact sweet spot for them.

Jenners said...

This just got bumped up in the TBR pile thanks to this review!

Anbolyn (Gudrun's Tights) said...

I like Morton's writing and really enjoyed her first novel, The House at Riverton so I know I will get on with this novel. Especially after you compared it with The Thirteenth Tale - loved that book and will read anything similar!

Selene said...

I enjoyed this one, partly because the Australian part was set in an Antiques business three doors down from a house I once lived in. It's lovely to see places captured in novels, particularly Australian places! It was a good story with a twist, and kept up the pace throughout, I like her work! :)

Haddock said...

sounds interesting and the cover is very impressive.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Good review,I am a great fan of Kate Morton's writing so am delighted that you enjoyed this Melissa.

bookmagic said...

I loved this book, I love all her books!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I read The House at Riverton and then I listened to the audiobook for The Distant Hours - both of which I enjoyed. Morton's writing tends to agree with me considerably, so loks like I should be picking up The Forgotten Garden soon...!

nomadreader said...

People keep recommending Kate Morton to me, but I haven't made the time to read one of her novels. You make this one sound so engaging, and I tend to really enjoy books set in multiple times. I'm off to find a copy!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mumsy - It is rare to find books that hit that sweet spot. It does talk a bit about The Secret Garden, but the plot is much darker.

Jenners - I hope you like it!

Anbolyn - I think House will be my next one from her.

Selene - I love it when that happens! It makes the books feel so real, like it could have just happened, right around the corner.

Haddock - I loved the cover too. I had the one on the left.

LindyLouMac - I don't know how I've missed her before now. I love this writing style too.

bookmagic - It seems like she is popular, but I hadn't heard of her until recently.

Natalie - I'm looking forward to reading both of those.

nomadreader - I kept hearing the same thing from people who know my taste well.

BookQuoter said...

Love this book. I have reread it several times, and love it even more each time.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

BookQuoter - Oh that's good to hear. I'm looking forward to re-reading it one day.