Friday, March 16, 2012

Don't Forget to Read This One

The Forgotten Garden
By Kate Morton

Right from the start, The Forgotten Garden had me hooked. Kate Morton tells the tale of Nell, a young girl arriving alone in Australia, fresh off a boat from England. Taken in by the dockmaster, she isn't told about her mysterious arrival until she turns 21. She is drawn back to England to search for her past and her family, only to leave it all behind again when she has to raise her granddaughter, Cass. After Nell's death, Cass picks up the threads of her grandmother's story and attempts to put it all together.

The story spans generations, decades, and continents and manages to never lose it's focus. Each chapter takes a different perspective and time period, from Nell's arrival in Australia in 1913, to her return to England in 1975, Cass's own trip to England in 2005, as well as the years before Nell's ship sets sail from England. The reader finds out bits of Nell's history as first she, and then Cass, trace the origins of a book of fairy tales Nell carried with her on the ship. Nell's notes drive Cass closer and closer to solving the mystery of her family, and the reader is privy to the lives of Eliza and Rose, cousins growing up on Blackhurst Manor in England, and a chain of events set in motion that they could have never imagined.

The use of fairy tales as a strong element in the plot reminded me of Winter Garden. In The Forgotten Garden, the fairy tales are written by one of the characters and serve as powerful clues to the truth behind Nell's past. Though fairy tales were a large part of the story, the central themes of mothers losing children and children losing mothers were what bound the story together and made the development of the story over several generations work. As each woman searched for her past, the discoveries she made filled a void in her life, even as she least expected it.

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