The Forgotten Garden…
A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.
Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.
The Forgotten Garden was such a wonderful novel to lose yourself in, I hardly know where to start with this review. As with all of her novels, Kate Morton has created a perfect symmetry between generations, interconnecting the past with the present on so many levels.
This novel was bursting with atmosphere and in every scene I was instantly transported to the era and location depicted. The grim despair of London in the early 1900s with its poverty, pollution, and gothic underbelly; the fog, the rats, the sinister legacy of Jack the Ripper. Contrasted with this you had Cornwall with its clean country living, the ocean and cliffs, the fog that was highlighted by Eliza as being so very different to that of London. But beneath this wholesome facade was a very gothic undertone, particularly with the isolation of the Estate and the constraints of its inhabitants. The darkness of Linus and his desires for the forbidden and how this shaped the wife and mother Adeline evolved into; Rose with her constant sickness, genuine in part, yet certainly fostered as well. Then there was Eliza, like a creation stepped right out of the pages of her own fairytales, otherworldly, the secret garden behind the maze contributing to this element of fantasy.
And speaking of Eliza’s fairytales, so beautifully written and timed to perfection with their appearances. This addition to the novel was sublime perfection and I absolutely loved it.
The relationship between Rose and Eliza was such a lovely one and I genuinely felt the loss of it for both of them. Likewise, the missed relationship between Eliza and Nathaniel. Their loyalty to Rose was appreciated even though their mutual affection for each other was endearing. You could not help but secretly yearn for a better outcome for the two of them despite knowing it was not possible.
Unfolding alongside all of this was the story of Nell in the 1970s and Cassandra in the present day, and this is where Morton’s skill as a storyteller shines through. She connects her characters across the generations, and not just via familial ties. Through Christian and the secret garden she connected Nel with Cassandra in an entirely unique way. She does this over and over and as a reader you feel as though you have stepped into a new world spun tightly together with so many threads and none of them ever left loose. The mystery at the heart of this novel unfolded at a good pace, definitely in a keeping you turning the pages late into the night kind of manner.
Cassandra’s story in the present day had me highly invested in her happiness and as much as I enjoyed the historical scenes, I eagerly awaited my return to Cassandra each time. Modern day Cornwall with its quaint charm was a treat for the senses and I am keen to now visit to see it for myself.
The Forgotten Garden has quickly jumped into the top spot as my favourite Kate Morton novel and is most definitely in my top ten favourite novels of all time. It’s a big, beautiful, atmospheric story and if you like historical fiction that spans generations and locations, then this is definitely the novel for you.
The Forgotten Garden is the first book I read in January for my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.