Book Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

–>It wasn’t only the garden that the little girl at the beginning of Kate Morton’s story had forgotten. She’d forgotten her name. She didn’t know where she belonged or who she belonged to. It had been a long voyage from the shores of England to the continent of Australia, especially for a four year old. But the childless couple who took her in off the dock knew exactly who she was. She was a child who needed a home, and they were just the ones to give it to her. They gave her a name as well, Nell.
But Nell isn’t the only lost and orphaned little girl in this story. There are three, to be exact. Each abandoned under different circumstances, and in different periods of time, yet their stories are connected. Each of them makes a trip to Blackhurst Manor in Cornwall. Each of them walks in the garden.
If my description implies that you will find predictability among the 549 pages of this novel, you are mistaken. What you will find is…a new clue to the mystery surrounding Nell’s true identity around each corner. But each new clue will bring with it fresh mysteries and new questions.
The author takes us from the discovery of Nell on the dock to her death bed and then back into her life again. She skillfully introduces us to each of the other little girls, who like Nell, found themselves living without parents. One was connected to the beginning of Nell’s life and another connected to the decades near the end. Like the clasp of a necklace, the two separate ends connect to bring completion to the circle of mystery that has been Nell’s life.
As the author moves from one scene to the next, you will find that you must pay careful attention to which of the characters is taking center stage. Is this Nell’s visit to Cornwall or Cassandra’s? Is this Eliza at the cottage or Nell? The chapters can jump from the beginning of the century to the end, or anywhere in between. If you are easily confused by this layered strategy, then ‘The Forgotten Garden’ is bound to confound you. The similarities between the stories of the three ladies could certainly add to your confusion. If you enjoy literary complexities, on the other hand, the uncertainty of where you are, at the beginning of each chapter, will only add to the intrigue.
Interlaced through the novel you will also find the fairy tales of ‘The Authoress’ which add their own level of magical mystery to the story. “The Crone’s Eyes” and “The Changeling” allow you a taste of the fairytale fantasies that lurk in the shadowing mind of Kate Morton. Author of the bestseller, “The House at Riverton”, Morton is a magnificent teller of mysterious tales, both long and short. More than once during this novel, she appears to expose her personal delight in fearful suspense, as she describes it like a delicious sensation that children enjoy.
You may not be able to read “The Forgotten Garden” in one sitting, but you’ll still have a hard time putting it down. Even as the puzzle pieces begin to come together and paint a clearer picture, the author manages to keep some of the most significant pieces hidden until the very end. 
{Review originally published in HerLife Magazine}

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