The Forgotten Garden, A Novel

by Kate Morton

Paperback, 2008



A lost child. On the eve of the first world war, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. A mysterious woman called the Authoress had promised to look after her but the Authoress has disappeared without a trace. A terrible secret. On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell O'Connor learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family. A mysterious inheritance. On Nell's death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold - secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost.… (more)


(2386 ratings; 4)


Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2010)
Australian Book Industry Awards (Shortlist — General Fiction — 2009)

Media reviews

All the pieces don’t quite mesh, but it’s a satisfying read overall, just the thing for readers who like multigenerational sagas with a touch of mystery.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cyderry
This delightful and fascinating book is the story of Eliza,Rose, Nell and Cassandra and how their histories and lives are all intertwined. The story is also told in several different timeframes - 1900's for Eliza and Rose, 1975 Nell's time, and Cassandra in 2005 who connects it all up.

The story
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centers around Nell who in 1913 is found abandoned at a harbour in Australia with a small suitcase containing some clothes and a book of fairy tales by Eliza. The harbour master takes her in and makes her a member of his family. When she turns 21 he reveals her lack of family history and thus Nell's hunt begins to put her story together.

Morton's ability to draw the reader into the different lives and then connect all the pieces is amazing. Definitely one of my favorites!
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LibraryThing member mrstreme
The Forgotten Garden is Kate Morton's follow-up novel to her bestselling The House at Riverton. I enjoyed Morton's first novel immensely, and I couldn't wait to read her sophomore effort. All in all, I was not disappointed.

The novel starts with four-year-old Nell, stranded on a wharf in Australia.
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With no one claiming her, she is adopted by Hugh and Lil, who raise her as their own. When she reaches adulthood, Nell learns the truth about her past and begins a quest to learn more about her biological parents. Unfortunately, she never learned the full truth, leaving her granddaughter Cassandra to unravel the mystery.

The novel takes its readers through multiple generations - the Victorian lives of Rose and Eliza (who are Nell's ancestors), the 1975 quest by Nell to learn more about her family and the 2005 journey by Cassandra to England to pick up where Nell left off. Morton masterfully maneuvers through each time period, slowly unveiling clues to the secrets of Nell and Cassandra's ancestry. Where Morton shines is in her character development, even making a 200-year-old cottage a character of its own. Without a doubt, The Forgotten Garden is a classic Gothic novel, and if you love that genre, you'll enjoy this book.

My only complaint was the overabundance of detail in the story. Morton is talented enough to tell a story without the minutia, and I think about 20 percent of this novel could have been trimmed. Admittedly, it's a small qualm and does not stop me from recommending The Forgotten Garden to other readers. But if you're an impatient reader (like me), consider yourself warned.

With that said, Kate Morton continues her storytelling mastery, and I look forward to reading her third book, The Distant Hours, very soon.
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LibraryThing member runaway84
Kate Morton's novels make me want to write. They inspire me. Hers are the kinds of stories I want to be telling. Rich plots with mysteries and secrets.

As I started The Forgotten Garden, I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. A little before halfway through, I had to force myself to stop reading
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in order to go to bed every night. The way the chapters were separated into views of three different women from three different generations kept the story moving instead of stifling it.

The mysteries unfolded in the last fourth of the book. And they unfolded slowly, not overwhelming you, but just at the right pace for you to digest them and you'd say, "Oh!"

I can't wait to devour Morton's next book. It can't come soon enough.
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LibraryThing member janw
SPOILER ALERT Yes The Forgotten Garden was one of those great engrossing all consuming, hard to put down reads. Morton provided a wonderful picturesque setting for a mystery. Call me a whiner but I objected to the following. 1. Nell is a happy, well adjusted daughter & sister until the moment at
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age 21 that she finds out she is adopted. Who completely changes their personality at age 21 and drops the love of their life because of the blow? I rather suspect you would cling to one who loved you. 2. After searching high & low for the white suitcase (BTW it's always the last place you look) Cassandra waits until she gets to England to decipher the journal. Obviously a contrivance to add mystery to the plot. 3. It was pretty hard not to guess the ending way before we got there. 4. Great to find a boyfriend who has twin hobbies of gardening and medical forensics. 4. So we dug up the precious hidden miraculously sealed clay pot but didn't want to be grossed out by bones so we quit there. Too much coincidence, way too many artificial contrivances to push the plot forward and way too sweet for me but I admit I couldn't put it down.
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LibraryThing member tangledthread
A modern gothic mystery that begins with a little girl abandoned on ship to Australia in London in 1913. She arrives at the port in Maryborough, Queensland with only a small white suitcase that contains a book of fairy stories and is informally adopted as daughter of the couple who found her
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abandoned at the dock. With the name Nell, she grows to be an older woman in Brisbane and has once traveled back to Cornwall and ends up purchasing a cottage there, but is unsuccessful in unraveling the mystery of her past. Upon her death her granddaughter, Cassandra, is left the mysterious cottage in Cornwall that is somehow related to her grandmother's past.
Cassandra is young widow who lost a young son along with her husband and has been stuck in the grieving process for 10 years.

The narrative weaves back and forth in time from the early 1900's to 1975 and to 2005 as we learn about Nell's the circumstances of Nell's parents, Nell's experience in her visit to Cornwall, and finally Cassandra's unraveling of the mystery in 2005.

It's reasonably good story line. At times the writing becomes a bit too flowery. Some of that could have been edited down to make the book closer to 350 pages, IMO.
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LibraryThing member soliloquies
Enjoyable read, although prone to jumping around periods of time and viewpoints a bit too much - it detracted from what was a good story.
LibraryThing member lit_chick
Far too contrived for me. I found the premise of a child abandoned on ship and taken in by a kindly dockmaster questionable at best. But I was finished when the dockmaster, not wanting to disappoint his wife, throws into the fireplace the notice that a man in London is looking for the child. The
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letter is destroyed with a “brief reproach” (73) – a brief reproach for having stolen a child?

Not for me. I forced myself through the first hundred pages and abandoned.
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LibraryThing member SilversReviews
I would give this book a 10 if I could. Loved it...absolutely amazing....the writing is a masterpiece.

All the mysteries and secrets of the Mountrachet family are revealed....the ending is superb.

The story goes back and forth in time telling the story of how little Nell was put on a boat to
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Australia without an adult and how the portmaster and his wife in Australia took her in as their own. Nell's life makes a complete turn around for her when her father tells her on her 21st birthday that she isn't really his child.

The book tells of the generations before and after Nell. It is masterfully don't want to put it down until you find out who Nell really is and until you find all the secrets about how she arrived on the boat and in Australia and the significance of the forgotten garden....the garden plays a huge part in the unraveling of the secrets and mysteries in the book.

I usually don't re-read books, but I would re-read this just to be sure I "got" all the facts was just fantastic....the story was very clever and the characters unforgettable....I didn't want the book to end.
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LibraryThing member Journey2thepast
Great book! Has everything I love - Cornwall, creepy old mansions, multi-generational family mystery and the author blends everything together seemlessly. I kept thinking I had figured things out and then I'd start second guessing myself because there were multiple options. Great, bittersweet
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ending as well. Highly recommend!
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LibraryThing member sumariotter
If you loved fairy tales and children's books you will love this novel. Clearly, this author loved all the same elements of stories that I did--somehow she has managed to put them all together in this one novel--changelings, fairies, secret gardens, sisters, cliffs, monsters, shipwrecks, lost
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children, evil step parents, princesses, etc. At first I was amused ("somebody read one too many fairy tales") but I got hooked in pretty quickly. The book shifts back and forth between it's different narrators and time periods but it really works well. Definitely an enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member SheilaDeeth
Someone told me The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton was good. They were right. It’s long—549 pages—but I found it impossible to put down. Starting in 1913 with a child playing on a London dock, moving to Australia where a present-day woman is haunted by her past, following a grandmother in
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the 1930s and an orphan in the 1900s, each seeking secret leads that will find or lose their families—the scenes move from London to Cornwall to Australia and even to America, with each location and time convincingly drawn and beautifully portrayed.

Kat Morton’s characters are delightfully believable and flawed. The selfless mother and beloved child, the fiercely honest father, loving sisters, wandering daughter, the grandchild loved and rejected and wounded and alone… And elsewhere the family that struggles to disguise its secret hurts and lies and histories…

Nell’s world is shattered the day she learns she’s adopted. She longs to find the family who abandoned her, to recover her self-worth. One thread of the story follows Nell’s search from Australia to London to Cornwall, but in another time it’s Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra who’s taken up the quest. All roads lead to secrets like flowers in a garden, beautifully planted and waiting for a gardener to help them grow. And the mysterious Authoress looms at the end of the maze, an indefinable figure of threat or of hope.

This story enthralled me. Even as I began to guess the past I would find it slipping from my grasp, and I had to turn the page. The author keeps the different storylines perfectly separated and beautifully balanced. She fills in the characters, flaws and all, turning them into friends the reader follows eagerly. And she draws it in to a beautiful conclusion where all is exposed and revealed.

The Forgotten Garden is a rare treat of a book and a masterful example of multiple storylines and timelines perfectly told, a powerful and beautiful tale.
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LibraryThing member bowerbird
Constantly switching between three different periods doesn't help this story. I do find that the part set in fairly recent Australia draws me in. -perhaps because the author is Australian herself! But then we move to a London of the 1900s which owes too much to Dickens and Charles Kingsley. Later
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the Cornish garden has direct references to Frances Hodgson Burnett. No this book is not for me. Perhaps if the book had been billed as a fairy-story for adults my expectations would have been different and I would have found it an easier book to read.
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LibraryThing member Carol420
A four-year-old girl waits alone on a dock in Australia for parents who never come. Her only possession? A tiny white suitcase containing no information about who she is or how she came to be abandoned.

Nell is a foundling, and what a rare foundling she is. A stow-away on an ocean liner, she refuses
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to tell even so much as her name. Until in her 60s, over-protected by a loving foster father, she has no clue how she came to be alone on that dock. Hers is the mystery that unfolds in this long novel spanning more than a century, five generations, and two distant continents.

Morton tells her story not only through the actions of her characters but also through fairy tales that work on several levels and provide clues to the mystery's final solution. Many readers will have guessed the solution long before the end of the book. Nevertheless, Morton maintains reader interest throughout.

Overall, this is a highly satisfying read. It's fun to watch the author weave the lives of women into a rich tapestry of life and love, anger and betrayal. However, the novel is not without its weaknesses. Morton's male characters are weak and insipid and never come to life, and the love interest at the end of the book does not mesh with the rest of the story. It is almost as though an editor said, "You'd better add a little love story here," so the author did. But this is clearly a novel written by a woman, for women, about women.
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LibraryThing member dianaleez
The year is 1913, the country Australia, and the scene a deserted wharf; a four-year-old girl sits waiting with a small white suitcase. What reader would fail to be drawn into this scene?

Kate Morton’s ‘The Forgotten Garden’ is the story of Nell, who, luckily for her, is found on that dock by
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possibly the nicest man in Australia. He takes her home to his childless wife, and Nell is cherished by the couple and thrives for the next seventeen years in the heart of a loving family. When she turns twenty-one, however, she is told of her mysterious origins. She then begins a life-long search to find out who she is and who the woman was who left her on the ship with unfulfilled promises of return.

It is also the story of Cassandra, Nell’s granddaughter, who, along with a cottage on the coast of Cornwall, inherits Nell’s quest.

And finally, it is the story of the imaginative Eliza, child of the Dickensian London slums, who becomes the author of the fairy tales that often intersperse the chapters.

Morton interweaves the three stories - set from 1913 to 2005 - in Australia, London, and Cornwall - as she slowly entices the reader with clues about the mysteries in the three women’s lives. Nell is a foundling searching for understanding of her origins; Eliza shares her vibrant personality but is faced with a confused and menacing heritage of her own. And Cassandra, brought up by a loving grandmother nevertheless seems to be carrying a heavy burden of her own past. Now add to this the interspersed fairy tales that mirror the themes of the story.

The strong points of Morton’s novel are her pleasant, easy-to-read story-teller’s style - the pages literally fly by - the mystery elements that hold up to the end, and the charisma of her protagonists. However, the novel’s structure was a major drawback for this reader. Each time I got involved in a character’s story, the chapter ended and the next chapter abruptly switched to a different character and time period. Every time I started to care about Nell, Cassandra, or Eliza, the time/setting/focus switch reminded me that I was reading a novel and not participating in a story. This is a matter of personal preference and will not be true for all readers. Morton’s novel will be a pleasant, even enthralling, read for many; but if, like me, you prefer a more linear plot structure, you may want to look carefully before you buy.
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LibraryThing member bachaney
Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden opens in Australia in 1913. A young girl has been left alone on a dock and has nowhere to go. This scene opens a mystery that the reader will chase for the next 500 pages. The unfolding of the mystery spans nearly 100 years, two continents, and three generations
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of women--one in the early 1900s, one in 1975, and one in 2005. As the secret that ties these women together is revealed, Morton weaves a fascinating story of love, jealousy, and the need to find a place where one belongs.

I really loved this book and I couldn't put it down. Morton is a great storyteller, and she does a wonderful job of slowly unfurling the mystery surrounding her characters so that the reader isn't really sure what the conclusion will be until the final pages of the novel. I feel like Morton also did a good job of representing the different times and places in her novel, while giving all of the women a certain familiar sense. The jumps between time periods were not confusing for me, and I actually thought they heightened the mystery and gave the story the satisfying sense of a slowly assembled puzzle.

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, gothic novels, and intergenerational family tales. I can't wait to see what else comes from Ms. Morton.
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LibraryThing member MystiqueWillow
I'm surprised this novel has received such a high rating. For me, this novel was much too reminiscent of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The structure of the plot, a story within a story, a mystery within a mystery, was identical to Setterfield. Sure, the location, characters, and
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cosmetic details were changed but the bones were the same. Of the two The Thirteenth Tale was the better novel. If you have already read The Thirteenth Tale don't bother with this will be a disappointment (unless you happen to like the story within a story structure). I found the mystery to be not so mysterious (it was rather easy to figure out). However, there was some good to be gleaned from the book. The Fairy Tales were quite good, I adored the character of the Authoress (I wish we could have seen more of her), parts of the novel were very insightful on the subjects of life and loss, and at times there was a coziness that emanated from the story's location. Overall, it was OK. I found it to be a little on the long side (and I love length...when a story is moving), the pace of the story was rather slow, and at times not detailed or expounded upon enough (especially for the length). I, personally, don't think it is worth the time (unless you like this specific type of story).
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LibraryThing member WeeziesBooks
Now that I have finished this book and reflect on this multi-generational story of mystery and secrets of families I realize what a long and involved book this was. I can't imagine being a four year old girl, traveling alone across the ocean, left on a dock in Queensland, Australia, in the early
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nineteen hundreds. The dock master takes her to his home where she becomes a member of the family and her unknown past forgotten.

In this suspenseful story, an illustrator and the Authoress, who illustrates an important but little known fairy tales book, a dark forbidding mansion, a lovely little cottage and the Mountrachet family all spin together across generations to tell a tale of families intertwined.

It is sometimes challenging to keep the characters straight as the stories move back and forth in time and location and the book is quite long and complicated in the intricacies of the relationships. The reader will be the constant switching in time and characters from past to present, primarily the years of 1913, 1975 and 2005.

This was a lovely book to read and I look forward to reading the books that follow. I recommend this book and also believe that it would be an excellent choice as a book club selection.
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LibraryThing member suetu
A century of secrets and lies, tangled like the brambles in The Forgotten Garden

Life has dealt me an unfortunate amount of pain of late. More than vicodin, I needed a really great novel to take my mind off injuries. Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden was just what the doctor ordered! It is a
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triumph of non-linear storytelling, and the epic tale being told carried me away.

The catalyst driving the story is Nell Andrews. Nell grew up loved and happy in a house full of sisters in Australia. All that changed on the night of her 21st birthday. That was the night that her father confessed the secret that upended Nell’s life—he had found her abandoned at the age of four. She’d been left dockside of a ship that had just come from England. She didn’t know, or wouldn’t divulge, her name and no one came for her. He took her home that night, and he and Nell’s mother had raised her as their own.

That revelation changed the course of Nell’s life, but she never had the opportunity to seriously investigate the mystery of her origins until after her father’s death, when she was in her mid-sixties. She made significant progress, but never fully unraveled the truth. As the novel opens, we first meet four-year-old Nell, then 21-year-old Nell, and then the dying 95-year-old Nell. She’s being attended by her devoted granddaughter Cassandra. Cassandra was largely raised by Nell and was closer to her than anyone, but knew nothing of Nell’s secret until after her death. Cassandra’s even more surprised to learn that she’s been left a cottage in Cornwall, England that Nell had secretly owned for years. So begins Cassandra’s quest to finish unraveling the mystery of Nell’s life.

The story jumps back and forth in time, not just between Nell’s and Cassandra’s investigations, but between the actual events that took place between 1900 and 1913 when Nell was abandoned. There is a rich cast of characters from the gothic past, and the story that gradually unfolds is complex, compelling, and utterly gripping. There’s even a cameo by Mrs. Hodgson Burnett herself! I plowed through the nearly 600 pages in record time, and only wish it had lasted longer.

I very much enjoyed Morton’s debut, The House at Riverton. This sophomore effort seals the deal; I’ve become a devoted fan. The Forgotten Garden is one of those books that I just feel so good about recommending to almost everyone. It’s a contemporary mystery, a Victorian drama, a novel of tragedy and triumph, and more than anything else a spellbinding story from start to finish.
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LibraryThing member joemmama
Kate Morton has written an intriguing, and haunting book in "The Forgotten Garden". This is a saga in the true sense, the story of 3 women, all searching for family.

In 1913, a tiny girl is abandoned on a ship by her companion, "The Authoress". Lost and alone she ends up sitting on a dock in
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Australia, where she is taken in by a dockman and his family. The only clue to her identity is a small white suitcase.

In 1975 a woman travels from Australia to England and impulsively buys a small but charming cottage on a large estate. She plans to make it her new home, but she never returns.

In 2005 a young woman inherits the cottage and is determined to discover the answers to the many questions surrounding her family history.

This was a wonderful book, spanning 4 generations of motherless girls. The stories are woven together so skillfully, I found myself disappearing into them. Secrets are revealed, love is found and lost, envy and bitterness, permeate one life, and in the end, answers are revealed in a very satisfying way.

The characters were so richly drawn, I cared about ALL of the women, and I HAD to know what was next. The descriptions were wonderful, a travelogue for me, and it was one terrific trip.

This book is from my very own shelf!
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LibraryThing member julyso
A little girl is left alone on a dock with only a small, white suitcase. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife, but she never tells her name and becomes "Nell." Nell passes on and leaves a cottage in Cornwall to her granddaughter, Cassandra. Cassandra makes the journey to England to solve
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the mystery of Nell's origins.

This is one complicated story that can't be summed up in just a few sentences. I couldn't wait to read "The Forgotten Garden" because I loved Kate Morton's first book, "The House at Riverton." This story, however, just didn't do it for me. It was really long and the last half of the book dragged for me. The switches in time and place were somewhat confusing. There are many characters and I found it hard to keep track of all of them. Nell and Cassandra were my favorites, though, great characters.
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LibraryThing member EllenH
This book was sort of pushed on me to read, I'm glad it was.
The story of a four year old girl left hiding on a ship in 1913. She ends up in Australia alone on a dock. This is the wonderful story of Nell and her grandaughter, Cassandra who each travel separately back to the Cornwall Coast to
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unravel the mystery.
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LibraryThing member Jenners26
About three chapters into this book, I knew I was in for a treat. Morton has written a sprawling, meticulously plotted novel that spans decades, interweaves stories and is filled with good old-fashioned storytelling. It felt delicious to read … kind of like slipping into a hot bath and settling
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in for a long soak. (Perhaps that is why it took me an unprecedented 10 days to read!)

The story—which alternates between three different time periods—deals with the issues of identity and family ties. The main story concerns a 4-year-old girl who is found alone on a dock in Australia—seemingly alone in the world after arriving on a ship from England. Adopted by the harbormaster after no one claims her, the girl grows up unaware of her origins, until her adoptive father reveals it to her after his wife’s death. Shocked and unbalanced by this news, the girl pursues the mystery of her identity and biological family—using only the meager clues left to her. Upon her death, the mystery is taken up by her granddaughter, who has a tragic story of her own. Shifting between the present day, the mid-1970s and the early 1900s, The Forgotten Garden unfolds slowly and carefully—with Morton interweaving each story line seamlessly.

I have to say that I admire Morton’s skills in crafting this story. She does a brilliant job of mixing Eliza’s, Nell’s and Cassandra’s stories in a way that felt fluid and natural. We’d learn something in one time period and then go back and get the details in the next chapter. I really enjoyed this way of telling the story. It felt like historical fiction mixed with contemporary fiction mixed with literary fiction. The mystery at the heart of the book was also satisfying … I thought I’d figured everything out only to have Morton toss me a curve ball. I love when that happens!

The other aspect I enjoyed was how the Eliza Makepeace character is a writer of fairy tales, and we get to read these stories at different points throughout the book. I loved how the fairy tales shed light on the events of the story … without that always being immediate obvious to the reader. The only thing that could have improved the story even more is if they had included the illustrations that were created for the fairy tale book! (I suppose that is asking a little too much though.)

I totally get why people gush over Kate Morton. If this is the kind of books she writes, then sign me up for more! This was a very satisfying read, and I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys good old-fashioned storytelling that is crafted with care by the author. So, Morton fans, which one should I try next?
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LibraryThing member BekiLynn
I love this book, the characters are believable, you can identify with them, the voices ring true. It does jump back and forth in time as the main character Cassandra tries to solve the mystery her grandmother Nell began to solve 30 years before. There is sufficient tension to keep you turning the
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pages as the story unfolds between Victorian England, early and mid 20th century Australia and 21st century England.

It begins with a little girl, perhaps 4 years old being discovered alone on a dock in Australia alone. Raised by the harbor master with no recollection of who she is or where she came form Nell lives her life and at 60 years old discovers she must find out who she is and goes to England with only a small suitcase and a book of fairy tales for clues. What she discovers is forgotten when she comes back to find her granddaughter literally dropped in her lap to raise. Fast forward to 2005. Nell has died and left the mystery in her granddaughters hands in the form of aan inherited cottage half a world away in England. So Cassandra goes to England to find out how her Grandmother Nell came by this cottage and why she left it to her. Its an engaging story and mystery after mystery arises as her journey progresses to a very satisfying conclusion. I guessed some of it way before revealed but it did not affect my enjoyment of the story.
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LibraryThing member veronicay
I enjoyed "The House At Riverton" for what it was -- an engaging summer read -- and this second novel is in the same vein. Almost disturbingly so -- note the considerable similarities in the jacket images, then discover that both books use the device of a dying woman looking back on her life, and
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construct some of the mystery by frequent changes in time and place -- in this case between 1908, 1913, 1975, and 2008.

Again the story and setting could be said to be derivative (Hodgson Burnett even makes a guest appearance in case you missed the reference!) but Morton makes up for it by her skills as a storyteller. It is a bit long-winded at times, and the jumping backwards and forwards can be irritating (I think this is about the 6th book in a row I've read that uses this device!) but once again she gets you involved in her characters' lives.

The little "plus" in this one is the inclusion of fairy stories written by Eliza, one of the key characters, in the early 20th century. They shed light both on Eliza's character and on events in the lives of the other characters, in a charming and unusual way. OK, there are times when things turn out a little too neatly (a long-lost and implausible letter revealing a part of the story that would have been impossible for the characters to discover otherwise, plus a few other convenient coincidences). It's easy to guess Nell's parentage by about two thirds of the way through, and the ending veers dangerously close to tweeness. But this book is all about escapism, not realism, and I think Morton is also deliberately introducing fairytale elements into her characters'lives -- she says in her afterword that the book is partly a tribute to the fairy stories she enjoyed as a child.

Basically this is just a good read, perfect for curling up by a log fire on a chilly winter night! But you need to be the type of reader who enjoys getting involved in a slow-moving and complex story.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
In The Forgotten Garden, Ms. Morton weaves a tapestry of characters, mystery and gothic elements to create a modern-day fairy tale that casts its spell on the reader. Its purpose is not to instruct or educate but to create a sense of enjoyment in the reader, as the reader revels in a tale that is
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part gothic, part mystery, and part historical fiction.

Fairy tales, and the idea of story telling, is such a key element in the novel that the reader does not understand that The Forgotten Garden is a fairy tale until the very end. Flitting between different time periods and following the story of three very different women, all connected through some mysterious connection, the key characteristics of a fairy tale seem to be missing but on further reflection become apparent. There is an evil witch, a damsel in distress, an arduous journey that is necessary for happiness. Which character fulfills which role is not what one would expect, and yet this realization only enhances the mastery with which Ms. Morton spun her tale.

In any good fairy tale, the characters make the story, and the same is true with The Forgotten Garden. Enigmatic Eliza, lost Nell, lonely Cassandra - the reader yearns, rejoices, and despairs with each of them as they battle for the happiness each deserves. Each character stands on her own merits, and her story is a story unto itself. The Forgotten Garden truly is three stories combined into one. The character connections and similar motifs mesh the three together in a seamless fashion, so that the reader can switch from character to character without getting confused or losing interest. Enhancing the characters are lush descriptions of the Blackhurst manor, engaging secondary characters that prove to be excellent foils and comic relief for those scenes that become too intense emotionally, and an overwhelming sense of care and love Ms. Morton instills into each line of her novel, for there is no doubt that for Ms. Morton, The Forgotten Garden was a labor of love.

As the narrator, Caroline Lee does a masterful job distinguishing the many female characters that play key roles in the novel. Through the use of different dialects, pronunciations, stresses, and inflections, the listener is able to determine which character is speaking with little to no trouble. Unfortunately, The Forgotten Garden is not a novel that is best suited for the audio format. There are so many clues and hints left along the way that I wanted to review as I got further into the story but could not without listening to the entire novel again. This inability to flip through previous chapters to find the scenes I wanted to review was a momentary distraction at the time but a niggling concern nonetheless.

The Forgotten Garden came highly recommended to me by others, and I found that those recommendations have definitive merit. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a novel solely for its story without attempting to glean a lesson from its pages, and The Forgotten Garden was an excellent reminder to enjoy reading purely for its entertainment value. There is something so simple and yet so mesmerizing about the individual stories that one cannot help but sit back and let them wash over you with delight. Enchanting and all together charming, Rose, Eliza, Nell and most importantly, Cassandra, found their way under my skin, and I yearned to keep listening to discover their secrets and their fate. I was loathe for the stories to end and cannot wait to discover Ms. Morton's other works. My hope is that they are as special as The Forgotten Garden.
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Washington Square,2008

Original publication date






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