The Forgotten Garden is a family saga, a captivating tale of three generations of women, each of whom was abandoned. First comes Nell, found alone at age 4, on a wharf in Australia, and adopted by the harbor master. Eliza, orphaned in London by the murder of her mother, is the center link. Finally there is Cassandra, deposited with her grandmother by a mother who never returned for her. Author Morton has fashioned her story around a pervasive mystery: who is Nell, who were her parents, and why was she sent by herself on a voyage from London to Australia? In a rich layer cake of a plot, the circumstances of their lives are made known, in their own times and places, in bits and pieces that snap together as the narrative progresses.
What I liked:
Some might find Morton's prose overblown, but I enjoyed her evocative images, her poetic descriptions, and her great ability to create tone and atmosphere. This is a fanciful story, yet real. There are no ghosts here, but the traces of the past impinge constantly. Surprisingly, her English settings are considerably more vivid than her native Australian ones.
Morton's female characters are strong, colorful, and think for themselves. Most are personably human, but Adeline, as stepmother, could not be more deliciously manipulative or cold. Male characters are fairly ancillary, with the exception of Mansell, whose role is small but pivotal.
This book is highly symbolic. From the names (Cassandra, Mansell, Rose, Nell, Makepeace, Swindell), to the metaphors (the apple tree, the walled garden, the inheritance, the multiple journeys, the three women), to the quest itself, The Forgotten Garden harks back to the timeless imagery of folklore and fairy tales.
What I disliked:
Cassandra's romance: too pat and predictable.
The length: A bit more editing is needed to cut down on replication of information.
The Forgotten Novel is an easy novel to get lost in, wonderful reading for those who enjoy folklore, family sagas, and subtle romantic drama. Recommended for adults and teens.
Kate Morton's second novel, The Forgotten Garden, tells of a family mystery that spans more than 100 years. The book opens with a young girl waiting on a boat deck for the mysterious "Authoress" during Edwardian times. As an adult, Nell tries to discover who she really is what happened to the Authoress. However, life gets in the way of her search. Until, 30 years later, after Nell's death her granddaughter picks up where her grandmother left off. … more
Someone told me The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton was good. They were right. It's long--549 pages--but I found it impossible to put down. Starting in 1913 with a child playing on a London dock, moving to Australia where a present-day woman is haunted by her past, following a grandmother in the 1930s and an orphan in the 1900s, each seeking secret leads that will find or lose their families--the scenes move from London to Cornwall to Australia and even to America, with each location and time … more
Kate Morton admittedly loves the classic Gothic tales. In her second novel, "The Forgotten Garden," this Australian author attempts to treat her audience to a beloved melding of styles and themes, the likes of which have been tested successfully before in Bronte's Jane Eyre (Vintage Classics), Du Maurier's Rebecca and Victoria Holt's Mistress of Mellyn. Morton gives it the old college try and she creates an interesting albeit long and sometimes ironically tedious labyrinth of characters whose secrets … more
This story follows the lives of three women, set in three time frames (early 1900's, 1975 and 2005) but all linked together through a garden, on an estate in Cornwall. The story mostly revolves around Nell and the mystery of who she is, where she came from and how/why she ended up where she did. Nell was abound on a ship from England to Australia. She was found stranded on an Australian dock at the age of four. At that time, she was taken in by Hugh (who oversaw the dock) and was given a family … more
One of life's pleasures is sinking into a sprawling book like The Forgotten Garden: A Novel. Author Kate Morton weaves a story around the lives of three women in different time frames, linked by the mystery of a four-year-old girl arriving alone at an Australian port in 1913. The child has no name, no history that she can tell, nothing but a tiny suitcase with no hints to her identity. The child, Nell, is raised as his own by the dockmaster, having no idea until her 21st birthday about the mystery … more
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: Like Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved classic The Secret Garden, Kate Morton'sThe Forgotten Gardentakes root in your imagination and grows into something enchanting--from a little girl with no memories left alone on a ship to Australia, to a fog-soaked London river bend where orphans comfort themselves with stories of Jack the Ripper, to a Cornish sea heaving against wind-whipped cliffs, crowned by an airless manor house where an overgrown hedge maze ends in the walled garden of a cottage left to rot. This hidden bit of earth revives barren hearts, while the mysterious Authoress's fairy tales (every bit as magical and sinister as Grimm's) whisper truths and ignite the imaginary lives of children. As Morton draws you through a thicket of secrets that spans generations, her story could cross into fairy tale territory if her characters weren't clothed in such complex flesh, their judgment blurred by the heady stench of emotions (envy, lust, pride, love) that furtively flourished in the glasshouse of Edwardian society. While most ache for a spotless mind's eternal sunshine, the Authoress meets the past as "a cruel mistress with whom we must all learn to dance," and her stories gift children with this vital muscle memory. --Mari Malcolm