Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The experience of reading is vastly different for an adolescent as opposed to an adult. For one thing an adult is interrupted more. The interruptions may be from spouses or children demanding your attention, or, they might just be your own stresses and worries encroaching on your thoughts…. Whatever, the reading experience of the adolescent is somehow undiluted. When I was a teenager I would read voraciously and completely. I was IN the book for the duration only to emerge when the last page was consumed.

I recently once again had that type of reading experience with Kate Mortons The Forgotten Garden. An historical novel with gothic overtones, it is also a family saga which spans a century. Complete with a family secret, a mysterious disappearance, an unexpected inheritance, fairy tales, and a brooding English mansion perched on the cliffs of Cornwall, it was everything I used to love in a novel.

The novel opens with a small girl put on a ship to Australia by a person known to the reader as “the authoress”. This tiny girl makes the vast journey alone, only to be claimed by the harbour master to be brought up as his own child. He names her ‘Nell’. After a happy childhood with this family, she is told her true story by her ‘father’ at her coming-of-age party. This life changing revelation is what spurs her to try to discover who her birth family is and why she ended up where she did. She embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the wealthy Mountrachet family.

On Nell’s death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden. The inheritance leads her to discover secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairy tales. Here Cassandra finally uncovers the truth about the family, and solves the century-old mystery of a little girl lost…

Anyone who was ever a fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (who by the way is mentioned in the novel), Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, or Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is certain to love the writing of Kate Morton. I am not saying that her writing is literary genius, only that she transports the reader to her world seemingly effortlessly. For anyone who wants their fiction to provide an escape, I highly recommend “The Forgotten Garden“.

I have not yet read Kate Morton’s other two titles, but I plan to put them near the top of my ‘to read’ list’. A previous novel The House at Riverton garnered much acclaim. Just out now is her new novel Distant Hours.

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