The Forgotten Garden
By: Kate Morton
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-fi rst 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 doomed 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.
It’s funny because the reason I learned of this novel was because I kept seeing it at Costco whenever I go with my mum. Reading the premise for the first time, I wasn’t so sure about it. So I put it back down. The next time I was there, I saw it again, thought about it some more and the decided not to again. Third time was the charm because I started reading a few pages and decided it was interesting enough to follow through. And I’m glad I did read it because it was much more interesting than I initially thought and apparently a lot of people over at GoodReads, both on my flist and from looking at the reviews, gave it good reviews. Spoilers ahead!
What really got to me about this novel was the way that the mystery was constructed. It keeps you guessing as to who was Nell’s mother and exactly what happened that she ended up in Australia without knowing who she is and what happened to her parents. I think the way that she presents the mystery, the possibilities, the people involved and so forth was entertaining. She also managed to present all sides of the mystery through three time periods—1913, 1975 and 2005—rather seamlessly, which added another layer of interest to the overall story. The setting of these stories were also pretty interesting, especially the Blackhurst estate with the cottage and the garden and the estate grounds, adding a layer to the story and feels like it has a presence of its own, especially when it comes to the more darker aspects of the story and the mystery in 1913. The insertion of the short fairy tales written by Eliza Makepeace was a nice touch and also pretty fun to read.
The characters were intriguing, particularly those who were living in 1913: Eliza, Rose, Nathaniel, Mary, etc. I guess they interested me the most because they were at the root of the entire mystery to begin with but also the character interaction was interesting. I ws rather creeped out my the character of Linus, the master of the estate and Eliza’s uncle. The other characters like Nell and Cassandra were also interesting, though I wish there were a few more scenes that fleshed out both their characters and their relationship as grandmother and granddaughter.
Overall I thought it was a great read. Once the mystery is fully introduced into the story, it really starts picking up and leaves you firmly planted in your seat as to race to uncover more about the mystery and the lives of these characters. Some of the things that happen in this novel leaves you feeling very sad for the characters but at the same time it can be very hopeful. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for an interesting summer read involving mystery, stories within stories and family drama.