April 5, 2009

The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
2009 Atria Books
Quit on 3/29/09
Rating: DNF
ARC - Due out on April 7, 2009

Product Description

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!


  1. I haven't yet read anything by this author, but I do plan to. As I read the summary of the book at the start of your review, I was getting excited--it sounds like it would be an awesome book. And then I got to the part where you said it didn't speak to you. That's disappointing. I will still probably give it a try myself, of course, but I won't let my expectations get too high.

  2. I read The House at Riverton and was in the minority with the rating of 3.5/5 (good). My post on it indicates that it was a bit dull for my taste, but the last 100 pages saved it. I think I'll pass on this one.

    Ahhh, I can't wait to read your thoughts on Little Bee. Well, actually I won't read them until I've read it (hopefully soon), but I will look at your rating. Hope it's a good one!

  3. I am waiting for thi sone to come into the library. I read House at Riverton and liked it enough to give it a rating of 4/5. There was something that wasn't just quite right to make it a better read, but there was certainly enough there to indicate that Kate Morton has good potential as an author.

  4. I appreciate your honesty on this one. I haven't read any of the other books you mentioned so I feel pretty good about not worrying whether I should read this or not.

  5. I wasn't a huge fan of The House at Riverton. It felt too direvative, and a little cardboard-y.

  6. Wendy - I'm glad you're still interested in giving this a try, in spite of my review. You may wind up loving it. Who knows?!

    I read that she's working on her third book and that it's set during WWII, so maybe that will be the winner for me.

    Joy - Hmmm, not a high ranking. Not sure whether I'll read it or not, as I'm seeing a few lukewarm comments. We'll see. I'll have to pop back over and read your review again.

    Off to read more of Little Bee once I catch up on emails. I'm enjoying it, but haven't gotten very far yet, so it's too soon to say if it will have a high rating.

    Marg - 4/5 is a decent rating. But you say something was missing, huh? I'm on the fence now about giving it (House at Riverton) a try. We'll see if it calls out to me sometime in the future.

    Staci - Oh, you should give The Tea Rose a read. It's a wonderful saga that I thoroughly enjoyed. Didn't feel quite as impressed with the sequel (The Winter Rose), but I can definitely recommend The Tea Rose.

    Eva - Hmmm, yet another mediocre response to The House at Riverton. Maybe I'll take a pass on that one. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. Oh boy so sorry this one was a DNF for you. I heard such great this about The House at Riverton (just bought it). BTW>>>I love The Help!~

  8. I really enjoyed The House at Riverton, but was disappointed with The Forgotten Garden. I did finish it, but it was a struggle. It was disappointing partly because I thought it was basically a re-working of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

    But I also worked out the ‘mystery’ quite easily and found the book rather predictable. It wasn’t just the predictability of the story I found a let down, I also had difficulty picturing the settings and working out the locations of the cottage, its garden, the maze and Blackhurst Manor even though I re-read their descriptions several times.

    Don't let it put you off The House at Riverton - that's much better in my opinion.

  9. Diane - Keep me posted on how you wind up liking The House at Riverton. I've been hearing mixed reviews and don't know if I'll read it.

    Isn't The Help fabulous?!?! :)

    Margaret - Sorry to hear you were also disappointed with The Forgotten Garden. I didn't get far enough in the book to notice any predictability, but I can imagine how it got to that point. Thanks for your opinion about The House at Riverton. I'll keep it in mind next time I go to the library!

  10. I thought I'd really love The House at Riverton. In reality, I liked it, but was underwhelmed. The Forgotten Garden sounds great to me, in fact I purchased it from the UK a while back. We'll have to see if we're in sync with this!

  11. Tara - Hmmmm, an "underwhelmed" reaction isn't helping to motivate me to rush out and get this book. I may just wait and read her third novel (set during WWII).

  12. Les, given that I loved The Thirteenth Tale and The Shadow of the Wind, AND I enjoyed The House at Riverton (as well as The Winter Rose by the same author as The Tea Rose), I think I'll need to give this one a try eventually! Thanks for the honest review.

  13. Wendy - Sounds like the perfect book for you!


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