April 5, 2009
The Forgotten Garden
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
2009 Atria Books
Quit on 3/29/09
ARC - Due out on April 7, 2009
With The House at Riverton, Australian author Kate Morton became an international bestseller, selling more than half a million copies in the UK alone and garnering translations into twenty-three languages. Now, with The Forgotten Garden, she delivers a novel that even surpasses her first tour de force. In 1913 London, a little girl plays hide-and-seek on the deck of a ship while waiting for the woman who left her there to return. But as darkness comes, the girl is still alone when the ship pulls out from the dock and steams away on a long, grueling journey to Australia. There, the dockmaster and his wife take in the castaway who is carrying nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a book of fairy tales. They name her Nell and raise her as their own. It's not until her twenty-first birthday that they tell her she is not who she thinks she is. Nell returns to England in search of her identity and that of the mysterious woman who abandoned her. But her quest is not fulfilled until after her death, when her granddaughter, Cassandra, travels to the cottage on the cliffs of Cornwall that Nell has left her and discovers the secrets of the forgotten garden of the novel's title. A story of outer and inner journeys, and an homage to the power of storytelling, The Forgotten Garden is filled with unforgettable characters who weave their way through its intricate plot to astounding effect.
I've heard very good things about Morton's debut novel, The House at Riverton, but haven't yet had a chance to give it a read. When I came upon an ARC of The Forgotten Garden (with its attractive cover art!), I decided to not wait any longer to read something by this popular new author. Unfortunately, after reading over 160 pages, I realized this just wasn't calling out to me, and I wasn't eager to spend another week or so reading the remaining 387 pages.
The story is told from three points of view and jumps back and forth in setting and time between 1907, 1913, 1930, 1976, and 2005. And, to add to my confusion, there's also a story within a story. I'm not one who needs a linear timeline, nor do multiple narrative voices frustrate me, but for whatever reason, this book became more of a challenge to finish than I would normally like, so I decided to call it quits. However, I still managed to find a couple of passages that might tempt someone else into reading this mysterious novel. Don't we all love to read about a character's love of reading?
It was too hot to go back outside. What she really felt like doing was reading. Escaping into the Enchanted Wood, up the Faraway Tree, or with the Famous Five into Smuggler's Top. She could picture her book, lying on her bed where she'd left it that morning, right near the pillow. Stupid of her not to bring it; she heard Len's voice, as she always did when she'd done something dumb.
Cassandra turned from the aircraft window and pulled the book of fairy tales from her carry-on, laid it across her lap. She didn't know what had made her so certain that she wanted to bring the book on board with her. It was the bond with Nell, she supposed, for this was the book from the suitcase, the link with Nell's past, one of the few possessions that had accompanied the little girl across the seas to Australia. And it was something about the book itself. It exercised the same compulsion over Cassandra that it had when she was ten years old and had first discovered it downstairs in Nell's flat. The title, the illustrations, even the author's name, Eliza Makepeace. Whispering it now, Cassandra felt the strangest shiver tiptoe along her spine.
I think I'm going to be in the minority on this multi-generational story. I have a strong feeling that fans of The Thirteenth Tale, The Shadow of the Wind and The Tea Rose (the latter of which I adored) might love it and give it rave reviews. I'll certainly be anxious to hear what others think. Meanwhile, I still intend to give The House at Riverton a try. If you've read either, please feel free to share your thoughts!