Tuesday, October 07, 2008

REVIEW: The Forgotten Garden

Title: The Forgotten Garden
Author: Kate Morton
ISBN: 9780330456968/Pan Books UK
Protagonist(s): Eliza, Nell and Cassandra
Setting(s): Brisbane, Australia and Cornwall, England in 1900, 1914, 1975 and 2005
Historical Fiction
Rating: A

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

It's 1913 and a dark, rainy night in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, when a little four-year-old girl is found abandoned on the dock. The port master simply cannot believe that someone would walk away and leave such a tiny child, and he waits for hours for someone to claim her. No one does. Eventually he and his wife adopt the girl, name her Nell, and raise her as their own. When Nell becomes engaged to be married, her adopted father tells her the truth about that dark night, and she is changed forever. In 1975 Nell has the chance to try to find out her true identity and flies to England. Buying a cottage in Cornwall, she fully intends to return to Australia, tie up a few loose ends, and renew her search for her roots in Cornwall. Once back in Australia, life intervenes, and years later it is up to her granddaughter, Cassandra, to resume her grandmother's quest.

Having read and enjoyed Morton's previous book, The House at Riverton, I looked forward to reading this one. Morton proved skillful at weaving together the stories of three generations of women torn apart by another family's pride and sense of entitlement. The three main characters--Eliza, Nell and Cassandra--are presented warts and all, and as a result I felt as if I knew each one of them and had a personal stake in how their stories would end. The Cornish setting in particular came to life, and if the book's title reminds you of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, it should. At over 600 pages, it's a hefty book, but I was mesmerized by Morton's tale, and it did not seem overly long. Morton has become an author for me to watch.

The Forgotten Garden is available for pre-order at Amazon, or you can be lucky like me and find a UK copy at some place like Paperback Swap.


  1. I love The Secret Garden. Is it only similar in title? Did it remind you of any other writers' styles?

  2. Jena, it's not just a similarity of title. There's actually an overgrown garden on the cottage grounds that's been hidden away from everyone for decades. One of the characters creates the garden; another one discovers it and starts bringing it back to life.

    Morton's style really doesn't put me in mind of anyone else's.


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