Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lisa's Review: The Forgotten Garden

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-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find 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. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales. ~http://books.simonandschuster.com/Forgotten-Garden/Kate-Morton/9781416550549

When we meet Nell, an abandoned four-year old stowed away on an ocean liner who wouldn't even speak her name, she is adopted by a generous dock worker and his wife. Devastated to learn years later that she isn't who she thought she was, she becomes withdrawn and changes her life around. With nothing more than an old suitcase and book of fairy tales she sets off to learn the truth about who she is. The knowledge doesn't come easily though and her search is derailed when Cassandra, her granddaughter, abandoned by her mother (Nell's daughter) comes to live with her. Nell dies without ever knowing the truth of who she is, but her grandaughter, continues the search.

The early chapters change time periods consistently which is confusing and frustrating for the reader, but this doesn't go on for very long and the story unfolds in a comfortable rhythm. Though a little in long in places, the story unfolds in a combination of present day and flashbacks and interspersed with fairy tales, which is a unique storytelling style that I particularly enjoyed. The fairy tales added an extra allegorical layer to the storytelling and offers the reader clues to the mystery.

A savvy reader will have guessed the truth of the what happened to Nell, long before the end of the book, however Kate Morton does a great job keeping your interest throughout. It was a pleasure getting to know the characters particularly the primary female characters who are fleshed out and well formed. Their male counterparts are not as fortunate, but there are far less of them around so it doesn't matter much.

Part fairy tale itself, The Forgotten Garden features some minor fantastical elements, even a wicked witch, but it's certainly not overdone in anyway. I can't help but compare this to The House at Riverton which packed such a powerful punch at the end that it keeps me from giving this a higher score. Don't get me wrong though, with strong themes, of love and betrayal, The Forgotten Garden is certainly a worthy follow up and great read.

Final Take: 4/5


Jenn June 16, 2009 at 12:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn June 16, 2009 at 12:20 AM  

This sounds like something Sarah Addison Allen fans would enjoy...

Julie June 16, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

Can't wait to read this one!! I love The House at Riverton!!

Sheila DeChantal July 1, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

Stopped by this morning and loved the sound of this book and review. I chose your post for my Monday Meanderings, you can link to it by clicking on my name.

Nice review!

Sheila DeChantal July 1, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

Ok... let me try that again with the correct link... ha ha

Holly July 1, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

This one sounds really good.

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