Book Review: The Forgotten Garden

Isn’t it strange that one place can both offer solace and be a prison? One certainly gets that sense reading of Blackhurst Manor and the cottage on the cliff that houses the secret garden: the namesake of Kate Morton’s book, ”The Forgotten Garden.”

The book begins when a little girl is left on a pier in Australia with only a suitcase full of items to tell the story of her origin.  She is taken in by a family that desperately wants a child. She is given the name Nell. It seems the ideal life: she has loving parents, brothers and sisters that love and idealize her and a fiancé that she loves and her father approves of.  But it is at this point that Nell’s father tells her about her origin, and rather than accepting the truth, Nell sees her whole past life as a lie and slowly tears the constructs of that life apart: breaks off the marriage, and turns away from her adoptive family.

This is the second book that I have read of Kate Morton, and I can certainly say I was not disappointed. Much like “The Distant Hours,” there is a strong sense of the Gothic novel in Morton’s work: the enchanted garden, the looming sense of evil at the Manor, and fairy tales. Her characters are romanticized, but she still has a way of making them complex and engaging.

We follow the life of four generations of women who are associated with Blackhurst Manor and the cottage on the cliff. The story slips from past to present with the suspense of a mystery novel.

Both past and present hold sway in Morton’s novels. A little girl Eliza, will be returned to Blackhurst Manor, the child of a sister who ran away from a diabolical brother. While it will seem as though she is saved from the streets of London after her mother dies, there are dark forces in the Manor that wish her ill.  This woman holds the key to Nell’s forgotten life.  It is only through her granddaughter Cassandra, that the real story of Nell and Elisa will be told.

The novel tackles challenging issues: love, need, loss, adoption, second chances.  Morton ties up the loose ends, and answers the questions that her story designs.

The book has encouraged me to see family in a continuum- not simply as one life, but the natural progression of many.  We are by far, a product of our past. Thank you Morton, I can’t wait to read the rest of your talented craftwork.

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