A brief synopsis
A lost child…
On the eve of the first world war, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. A mysterious woman called the Authoress had promised to look after her – but the Authoress has disappeared without a trace.
A terrible secret…
On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell O’Connor learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family.
A mysterious inheritance…
On Nell’s death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold – secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost.
It’s really difficult to tell you much about this book without spoilers. So while I was thinking about how to write the review I read the synopsis on Kate Morton’s site (given above). As you can see there are 3 layers to this novel. 3 layers that answer the same questions, ’Where did Nell come from?’, ‘Who were here parents?’ and ‘why was she put on a ship to Australia as a 4 year old?’
‘The forgotten garden’ is a journey to find these answers, a mystery that spans 2 continents and 2 centuries, a mystery that will lead 2 women, Nell and Cassandra, to Cornish coast, Blackhurst Manor and ultimately to a cottage on a cliff and a forgotten garden. A garden that lives and breathes, a garden where fairy tales were written and secrets kept safe.
When Nell was 4 she was left alone on a ship sailing from Europe to Australia. She was adopted by a man who found her all alone and couldn’t leave her to fend for herself. When Nell turns 21, her father tells her the truth. Nell is devastated by this. After some years, before her father dies, he arranges to return to Nell the suitcase with which she had arrived. Based on its contents and a book of Fairy Tales written by Eliza Makepiece, Nell decides to find out who she really is. After Nell dies, her granddaughter Cassandra follows her grandmother’s footsteps when she learns that Nell has left her a cottage in Europe as an inheritance.
Essentially there are 3 stories running in parallel, Nell’s search for her parents, Cassandra’s search for her grandmother’s past and finally the story of Eliza and Rose, where it all began.
This was my first Kate Morton book and I was blown away by her writing and her ability to spin 3 complicated plots together. Al though at times I was confused with what was happening; overall it was a fantastic book. I wanted more of this book and considering it’s almost 600 pages, that’s saying a lot. Her writing is so beautiful that I found myself getting lost in the small sea side town, in Eliza and Rose’s story and wondering how it all fit. I tried to guess the mystery a lot of times but was always wrong. The story I loved reading most of all was that of Eliza. She was so vivacious, rebellious and full of life.
Kate Morton’s writing is so evocative and her way of describing things is so beautiful that you cannot help but get lost in the story. Take for example,
He was a scribble of a man. Frail and fine and stooped from a knot in the center of his knobbled back. Beige slacks with grease spots clung to the marbles of his knees, twiglike ankles rose stoically from over-sized shoes, and tufts of white floss sprouted from various fertile spots on a otherwise smooth scalp. He looked like a character from a children’s story. A fairy story.
Some people might find the writing style very wordy but it worked for me. I suggest giving this book your full attention instead of clubbing it with a couple of other reads, because as I said, there are 3 plots running simultaneously and if you read it in gaps you might get confused by the jumps.
P.S: If you like reading fairy tales, you might like this book even more.
P.P.S: My sister was mighty jealous when she saw me reading this book, because it means the more time she has to wait to get her hands on this one :)
Thank you so much Lisa (from Atria) for the book.
About the author:
Kate Morton’s books are published in 31 countries. The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008. The Shifting Fog won General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards, and The House at Riverton was nominated for Most Popular Book at the British Book Awards in 2008. Her second book, The Forgotten Garden, was a #1 bestseller in Australia and a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2008. Read more here.