“Coyotemusic said: 4 +
This was a good story, crafitly told. I can't tell if it was Morton's debut or not, but even if not it's an impressive feat for a newer author. Though the book was long, I found it fast paced; it didn't take but a couple of pages to get into it (though I suspected the mystery's solution right from the start, and confirmed it well before the end) I was engaged the whole way through.
I REALLY liked it, but there were just some things that bothered me enough not to love it. The end had a bit of a nod to Chick Lit, and at some times I found it soap operaish. My age old question: "What's my motivation?"
Minor quibbles. I will be reading more Morton, but I suspect she has a bit of a formula (back and forth in time) to her stories, and I think it best to spread her out and not read her books too closely together. I suspect her writing will only get better as she gains more experience.
krisT J said: 4.5 stars
Loved this novel after the first little bit. It took a while to figure out we were going back and forth and after death and then back again. I loved the feeling this author creates by incorporating the fairy tales with the stories of the people trying to find their true stories. Great story with mystery and intrigue going back to the early 1900's.
Nicole R said: 5 stars + heart
A very satisfying genealogical mystery.
Nell is found in an Australian port in 1913, she is alone and can't remember anything from before being on the ship. A dock worker considers it a sign and takes her home with him where he and his wife raise Nell as their own. Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter, was left in her grandmother's care in 1975 when her mother no longer wanted to be burdened with her. In 2005, Cassandra learns of her grandmother's past and searches for the answers Nell never found. In 1900, Eliza is a young girl who is trying to earn a living on the streets of London and avoid the bad men her late mother warned her of. Eventually, fate catches up to her and she is taken to a country manor to live. These three women's lives are intricately intertwined and Blackhurst Manor holds the key to the truth.
The Forgotten Garden was beautifully written as the author jumped among Nell, Cassandra, and Eliza's viewpoints - each woman telling her part of the family history. This was not a light-hearted story but was laced with deception, betrayal, illicit love, and jealousy. The secrets of the mystery were not particularly difficult to figure out but the details behind the revelations are what kept me reading late into the night. One of the highlights of the book was the three fairy tales that were included; they were more Grimm than Disney but reflected what was occurring in the story and gave clues as to what was happening in Eliza's life. At first, I found it a bit difficult to keep the different time periods straight but eventually it got easier; others may not find it as difficult as I did, names are hard for me to keep straight.
I highly recommend this book and know many of you mentioned that you were planning on reading it this month. Be aware though that I would not have labeled this as romance myself; in fact, I'm not sure which part of the story spurred the description of romance!
ghost of a rose said: 5 stars
Sigh. If only real-life genealogy was like this . . .
This epic novel is about a genealogical mystery. In 1913, a four-year-old girl was found alone on a wharf in Australia, having arrived by ship from London. She says she doesn't remember her name. You might think that a little girl alone on a ship isn't realistic, but the book explains the chain of events in such a way that it makes perfect sense.
The wharf worker who found her called her "Nell", and he and his wife raised her as their own. Only at Nell's 21st birthday does her "father" reveal the truth about her origins. It changes her life, but she keeps the secret.
In 2005, after Nell's death, her granddaughter Cassandra discovers the secret. She embarks on a search to discover who Nell really was, and how she came to be abandoned on an Australian wharf. Along the way, she learns that Nell had also tried to find the same answers to the mystery of her origins.
The story jumps around back and forth between the early 1900's (the story of the mysterious woman Nell vaguely remembered as "The Authoress"), the 1970's (Nell's search for her birth family), and 2005 (Cassandra's investigation into the mystery.) But each section is clearly labeled at the start, so there is no confusion. It also helps (and enhances the interest) that each section is closely correlated with the others - each chronology concerns the same events and clues. You read about something that happened in the early 1900's just as Nell (in the 1970's) and Cassandra (in 2005) are discovering clues about that particular event.
It is a great story, with all the fascination of real-life genealogy but with the additional satisfaction of eventually finding all the answers - something that rarely happens in real life. And not only do we get to know the answers, but we also come to know each of the people involved intimately, their personalities and their feelings. The reader is omniscient: unlike Cassandra and Nell, we don't just uncover the facts, but are able to watch the entire story unfold through the narration of the earlier events. It is so very satisfying - if only I could really know my own ancestors and what happened in their lives, like this!
I did figure out the answer to the mystery fairly early in the book, but not the reason why. I had a theory - and a backup one - and neither one were right!
The characters are thoroughly developed, the plot is a real page-turner, the settings so alive, and the ending so satisfying: neatly tying up all the loose ends but retaining the poignancy of the story. This is a moving and perfect novel. Even at this length, I didn't want it to end.
i.should.b.reading said: 5 stars
A story full of mysteries and secrets. It surrounds three women from three different time periods. The book begins with Nell learning a secret that changes her life forever. Then you have Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter. When Nell dies Cassandra inherits a cottage in Cornwall and a mystery. And in the past there is Eliza. I loved the way the book was written with perspectives in three time periods. I thought it made the story more suspenseful and it took me awhile to see exactly where the story was going. Even after I thought I had it figured out the writing made me want to see if I was right.
Susan T said: 5 stars
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 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.
JudithAnn said: 5 stars
This is a gripping family history story, about a little girl, Nell, who is left on her own on a boat from England to Australia in 1913.
By going back and forward to different times, 1900, 1913, 1975, 2005, we find out who she was and how come she travelled on her own.
The story is told from the perspective of several people in the past, such as people in Nell's family, and the story also relates Nell's search for her roots in 1975, and her granddaughter Cassandra's further efforts, in 2005, after Nell has died, to find out what happened all those years ago.
I found it an interesting book, in which the reader finds out a little bit more about Nell's past in every chapter.
LibraryCin said: 4.5 stars
In 1913, 4-year old Nell finds herself abandoned, at the end of a ship's crossing in Australia, and is found and taken home by Hugh, the man working at the port that night. Hugh and his wife raise Nell as their own, only telling her what happened when she turns 21. Nell keeps her secret the rest of her life, but after she dies in 2005, her granddaughter, Cassandra, learns what happened and sets out to find out about Nell's biological family and how she came to be abandoned in Australia. The book goes back and forth in time between 1900-1913, the mid-1970s (as Nell travels to England to try to find out more), and 2005, as Cassandra is trying to figure it all out.
Wow! I never wanted to put it down! The unravelling of all the secrets and what happened in 1913, and up to that point, and along the way... I loved all the fairy tale references, as the character, Eliza, who Nell remembers taking her to the ship that brought her to Australia was an "authoress" of fairy tales, plus Frances Hodgson Burnett makes a "guest appearance" as a character in the book. Loved that, too! It wasn't too difficult to follow along, even with the shift in time between characters; it actually flowed surprisingly smoothly, though there were a couple of points where I had to be reminded of who knew what or who had talked to whom. Overall, though, this should make my favourites list for this year! I really, really enjoyed it!
SouthWestZippy said: 3 stars
I enjoyed the plot about the mystery of the little girl found alone on a ship in 1913 headed for Australia. The dockmaster and his wife took the girl in, gave her the name Nell and raised her as one of their own. Nell was told the truth on her 21st Birthday. Nell then set out to find out her true identity. Unfortunately she passes away before she can find out the whole truth so her Granddaughter takes up the search. The book jumps back and fourth to different time periods. I did have a hard time following what was going on because of the different time periods. I had to go back and reread several parts, this is the reason for the three stars. I loved the writing style and again loved the mystery plot.
Ellen R said: 4 stars
The year is 1913 when a ship arrives at the docks in Queensland, Australia. The dockmaster, Hugh, is amazed to find a small girl, apparently unaccompanied, emerge from the ship clutching a small white suitcase. Unable to find the child’s family, Hugh takes the girl home with him. Hugh and his wife never learn where the child came from so they keep her as one of their own and name her Nell.
In 2005 Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra has been at her beloved grandmother’s side constantly as Nell’s long life ebbs away. After the funeral Cassandra comes across the deed to a house on the Cornish coast of England, a house situated on land belonging to the once powerful Montrachet family. Cassandra realizes that Nell was searching for the truth of her parentage and Cassandra decides to travel to England to solve the riddle of Nell’s birth and voyage to Australia.
The novel is set in several different time periods so it is difficult to follow at first but the stories of the women involved are wonderfully written that soon I was drawn into the book no matter the year. The mystery at the heart of the story is a good one and the myriad of secrets that lead to the truth are enticing. I was daunted by the sheer size of the book, a much larger one that I usually attempt, but I’m glad I read it. It was a terrific tale.
Jen M said: 4 stars
Review: A multi-generational mystery layers characters and clues richly and cleverly to tell the story of Grandma Nell's origins. From Australia to England, Cassandra travels to solve a puzzle even her grandmother hadn't fully figured out, and the information brings both love and heartbreak.
I won't dive too much into the plotline since it's been reviewed to the moon and back and summaries are easy to find if that's what someone wants to look at. Plus, there is definitely the element of surprise in many of the revelations, though the "big" one seemed so obvious to me.
I liked this book quite a bit, but I didn't love it. I wanted to love it, especially since so many of my friends who have read it really loved it, but I never quite got there. Mostly, I think, this was due to feeling frustrated by Eliza's devotion to Rose, especially in the later years as Rose became more and more awful. Eliza was so strong in so many other ways that the weakness she had for Rose's friendship often seemed so wasted.
The frequent jumps between timelines were a bit hard to follow at first, when I was still learning the characters and who was a part of which time. Once this became more comfortable, I found it intriguing to see the links forming across the years and how early details were more fully explained by later revelations. There's an interesting mix here of elements of the elegant, genteel English estate with an underlayer of dark Jack the Ripper mystery...you know that things are building to something ugly, but when it does finally come, it's hard to quite believe that that's where things ended. The magic of that English estate tarnishes in horribly delicious ways.
This book is a bit of an investment in time and patience, as it builds the tension really subtly in the beginning, but readers that stick with it are likely to find the journey worth it in the end.”