A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
New York, NY
I can't remember where I first learned of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I think it was through one of the numerous book blogs that I follow. At any rate I remember hearing it had to do with a secret garden and was reminiscent of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (which is one of my all-time favorite books). This was enough to put the book on my TBR list.
Although it ended up being totally different than I expected, I still enjoyed this read... But then I'm getting ahead of myself.
"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 dock master 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 with very little to go on, 'Nell' sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it s not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the books' title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)
The Forgotten Garden is a complicated weaving of the stories of three related women who live during three very different times and on two very different places of the world. Throughout the novel the story flashes back and forth between these times and places, which at first caused me some confusion, but as the story progresses and the characters and plot develop I found myself absorbed in this spellbinding story.
Overall I really enjoyed this story. There is a secret garden and an appearance by Frances Hodgson Burnett which was fun. The reader is left to imagine that Mrs. Hodgson Burnett's visit to the garden helps to inspire her novel by the same name, though this is purely fictional and in truth it was Kate Morton who was inspired in part by Mrs. Hodgson Burnett's writing. Another element of this book reminded me of Daphne DuMaurier's Jamaica Inn, again another author that inspired Morton. All of these links added to the pleasure of reading to this book.
On the other hand, I can't say the mystery of this story is that difficult. I found myself guessing the ending well before the middle of the book, but kept reading to see if I was right and also because I wanted to know how all the details were wrapped up in the ending. And yes, the ending leaves no loose ends. This is satisfying, but for the fact that one element really tried me as a reader. I can't say too much without giving away a major part of the story, but suffice it to say there is one aspect that I was not pleased with. In fact I wished it anyway but how it was and yet, looking back over the story as a whole I don't see how Morton could succeed in telling this story without the element being as it is. Changing this one aspect would have changed the story entirely, which just wouldn't have worked.
In the end, I can say I found Kate Morton to be a very imaginative story teller. Her characters were well painted, her fairy tales (woven throughout the book) masterpieces in and of themselves, and her story a clever and unique read that I am glad to have read.
That said, I can't say The Forgotten Garden was a classic. It's unlikely that I will re-read the story and even more doubtful that it will ever hold a place in my personal library. Still, I am glad I read it and definitely impressed with the writing capability of 33 year old Kate Morton as this is her second novel ever. I look forward to reading some of her other works and hope they will be as good, if not even better than this one. And if The Forgotten Garden is ever made into a movie I think I will take the time to see it. It's definitely a clever and unique story.
More information about Kate Morton
My review of Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier