"The Forgotten Garden"

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

There is something about Kate Morton's novels that doesn't click with me. I read "The House At Riverton" a while ago and though I found it interesting and had no problem finishing the book, it just for some reason didn't appeal to me much. Unfortunately I've had the same experience with The Forgotten Garden.

Again, I liked the cover and title, the settings, the era and some of the characters. It is set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as the 1970's and present day.

The plot was complicated, but fairly well organized. It shuffles back and forth among four generations of women and I must admit I found it confusing at first. I like stories that are told in flashback, but this one has a lot of characters and it took me awhile to fit all the people into the right generation and time period. I had to flip back a few times to remind myself who I was reading about and why they mattered, but by the time I got into the second half of the book I was able to follow it more easily.

The Forgotten Garden is the story of Nell, her granddaughter Cassandra, and their attempts to unravel the mystery of Nell's past. She was adopted at the age of 4 by a couple who found her alone and abandoned on a ship bound for Australia. She remembers bits about her life before that, enough to send her searching for answers about who her mother was and why she'd been left to fend for herself on a ship full of strangers, and enough for her granddaughter, Cassandra, to continue the search when Nell no longer could.

As with 'The House At Riverton' I finished this book unsatisfied. All the loose ends got tied up, but I just got tired of people having so many secrets and nobody ever answering a question directly. Over and over again characters would think they had finally come to the right place for answers, then someone would walk away without saying what they knew, or they would tell what they knew but their disclosure changed everything they thought they knew before.

The central characters, the Mountrachet's, could be the poster people for the dysfunctional family. There was Linus, a disturbing man who was overly fond of his sister, then his sister's daughter, and then her daughter in turn. I found it peculiar that his strangeness was quite a strong thread thoughout the story, but it didn't go anywhere. He vows to himself that he will not lose them as he did his sister, then he more or less fades from the story, just showing up now and then to stalk his prey and make my skin crawl. I was quite glad to see him go, because I really did not want to read about him taking his obsessions any farther.

Linus's wife was Adeline, who was 'low-born' but whom Linus married to spite his parents (who also had some serious issues). Adeline spent her life trying to make people forget her past so that she would be accepted in "good" society. She pulled it off, but became a miserable old cow in the process,  ruining life for just about everyone around her.

Rose is Linus and Adeline's daughter. Eliza is the daughter of Linus's beloved (in a creepy way) sister, Gorgianna. Eliza is brought to Blackhurst Manor to be a companion for the sickly Rose. They become friends as children, but then they grow up and it all starts to fall apart.

I know I said the story was about Nell and Cassandra and I'm am getting to them but I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say that Nell's life winds through the lives of all the characters mentioned above. Chronologically, Cassandra comes along later and is the one putting together all the pieces to the puzzle that is her family history.

At the end of the book, I had the same regret that I had at the end of 'The House At Riverton'. I wanted some good things to happen for certain characters but, alas, it was not to be. I think I'd put both of these stories in the category of 'tragedies'. There is a lot of unhappiness, though some of the characters are finally able to escape it.

I recommend 'The Forgotten Garden' to anyone who likes a good mystery to solve,and can live without an all around happy ending. For me it was just ok, nothing special. If you do read it, I hope you'll enjoy it more than I did.


Anonymous said...

Currently I am reading the book, "The Forgotten Garden", and this article is very helpful because I'm kinda getting confused too, well I'm still at the beginning though so it may be as expected. Well anyways thanks.

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