After reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield, Goodreads recommended The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton as a similar book. After reading the synopsis on GoodReads, the story sounded interesting and magical, so I swiftly added it to my to read list. The story revolves around a secret garden, an aristocratic family, dark fairy tales, family secrets and lots of mystery.
The story is narrated by three different people, across time periods and countries, namely Australia and England. The three narrators are Cassandra (2005), Nell (1975) and Eliza Makepeace (1910 – 1913). Nell was abandoned as a little girl on a ship in 1913, arriving in Australia completely alone apart from a white suitcase containing clothes and a book of fairy tales written by Eliza Makepeace. She was taken in by the dockmaster who raised Nell as his own, however on her 21st birthday he tells her the truth. Being shattered by this news, Nell starts pushing away her family and sets her mind upon finding out her real identity. With only the book of fairytales and broken memories of Eliza (who she recognises by a picture in the book as the woman who abandoned her on the ship), she starts her journey to England to find about her real family. After Nell died, her granddaughter Cassandra inherits Nell’s house in Cornwall with a note “For Cassandra, who will understand why”. Cassandra starts following her grandmother’s footsteps which leads her to the house in Cornwall, the Blackhurst Manor and the dark secrets of the Mountrachet family. Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden at Blackhurst Manor, that unlocks the secrets of the fairy tales and the Mountrachet family and why Nell was abandoned all those years ago.
This was my first novel I have read of Kate Morton and I really enjoyed reading this book. I found it to be an easy read, a mystery novel interlaced with interesting characters through places and time. At times, I was slightly annoyed with Nell who didn’t pursue it further to find out who she is and where she comes from. Reading the story from different perspectives I start thinking “if only she spoke to this person and that person” and “she was so close to finding out the truth!”, but at the same time I also think that her quest to find out about her true heritage started coming in the way of her bond with the family that raised her. If it was me, I would pursue to find out the truth about myself, but I couldn’t understand why she pushed away the people who, in essence, are her family. I went through various emotions reading this novel, ranging from annoyance, sadness and delight. The novel ended too abrupt for me, but regardless it was a satisfying end to the novel. So many times I have read a good book only to be disappointed by the ending, but not with this novel. I found the story to be captivating and atmospheric – think hidden doors, a secret maze, an old and damaged cottage and mysterious disappearances – it borders on a ‘slightly gothic’ tale of love and sacrifice. I can’t wait to read more of Kate’s books – I already purchased Distant Hours and once I’m done reading Winter in Madrid – by CJ Samson – I will pick this one up.
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