I’ve been on a Kate Morton kick lately, started by “The Secret Keeper”. I also loved “The House at Riverton”, but had some problems getting through “The Distant Hours” (I found it too gothic and too much like “The House at Riverton”). Friends had suggested “The Forgotten Garden”, but it was always out at the library. I finally broke down and purchased it for my kindle. I think this may be my favorite of her books.
Similar to her other books, “The Forgotten Garden” moves back and forth in time as we learn the story of Nell, a little girl found on the Brisbane docks by a dock worker and taken home as raised as one of his own. Nell is much beloved by her family, but her father feels he must tell her the truth on her twenty-first birthday: she is not their biological child and she most probably has family in England. Nell is crushed by this news and becomes determined to figure out where she is from and how she ended up on a ship going to Australia. She has vague memories of being taken there as part of a game by “the authoress”, and waiting for her or her mother or father to return for her, but no one did. She also has distant memories of playing in a garden maze and going through to a little cottage where “the authoress” lived. Nell starts to piece together the story of her life, and travels to England to see where she is from and to see what she can learn. However, she unexpectantly “inherits” her granddaughter, and her plans are put on hold. Eventually, time passes and Nell does not return to England; her granddaughter, Cassandra, grows up, and Nell decides, as she is dying, to tell Cassandra her secret so that she can figure out the rest of the story. Cassandra then travels to England to figure out the mystery of who her grandmother really was.
I loved reading this story, which switched viewpoint and time period often. At points we were with Nell in the 70’s. Some times we were in present day. Some times it was a young girl, Eliza’s, story from the turn of the century – or Eliza’s story when she was living at the manor in 1910. As the book progressed,though, the viewpoints and storylines converged into one, and at the end, all the questions were answered. Of course a forgotten garden plays a large role here – complete with all that symbolizes!