Monday, August 12, 2013

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

My friend Elina was one of the first people that always gave me great book recommendations.  We met in fourth grade when we both had an excellent teacher named Mrs. Shed.  Mrs. Shed was a warm hearted woman with a great gift of teaching.  She always loved all things pioneer related which was just up my Little House on the Prairie loving alley.  For some reason, I didn’t get along with a couple of other girls I was seated by, which was odd as we became good friends the next year.  I think we antagonized each other like sisters that year.  Finally I was assigned a seat next to Elina.  Elina not only made goofy faces that made me laugh, but she also read cool books.  She let me borrow them and gave great recommendations that I always enjoyed.  Elina now lives in Chicago, and I don’t get to see her very often, but luckily we now have Facebook she is able to send me book recommendations.  A few years ago, she told me that I needed to read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  After I finished the novel, I realized that she had once again struck gold with a novel that one I absolutely adored.  Do you have good book reading friends that always make stellar recommendations?

After Elina recommended this book, it went onto my ever growing list of “to read” books, which is sadly currently over 400 on Goodreads.  I decided to pick it as the August selection of the FLICKS Book and Movie Club to move it up my list.  I’m glad I did as it was an excellent novel that I had a hard time putting down!

The Forgotten Garden is the story of three women, Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra.  As a four year old girl in 1913, Nell was found on a wharf in Australia having arrived on a boat from England.  She had a small suitcase in hand and did not know her name.  The Portmaster, Hugh, took her home with him so she wouldn’t be alone.  As no one came looking for her, his wife, Lil, and he decided to keep her as their own child.  They had been unable to have children and this was a blessing in disguise.  They moved to a different town in case to further disguise the fact that Nell was not their child.  Nell grew up thinking she was their child, until her 21st birthday when Hugh decided to tell her the secret.  This forever changed Nell’s life and set her adrift from this point on.  She always wondered who she was and went to England in the 1970’s to find out.  She almost made her discovery, but when she came home, her daughter abandoned Nell’s granddaughter, Cassandra at her house.  She raises the motherless Cassandra and they form a wonderful bond.  After Nell’s death in 2005, Cassandra discovers that Nell was adopted and that she owned a cottage in England.  She determines to unravel the secret that Nell so wanted to solve.

In Nell’s suitcase was a book of fairy tales written by Eliza Makepeace.  Nell’s earliest memories are of the “Authoress” leaving her on the boat and of visiting her with her father through a secret garden.  The novel flashes back to Eliza’s story and how discovering the key to Eliza could help to solve Nell’s mystery.

The novel is told through a series of flashbacks across continents and time.  1900, 1913, 1970’s, and 2005 are key time periods in the lives of these three women.  I loved the complex nature of this set-up and how it helped to enhance the mystery and its solution.  Although this book was over five hundred pages long, I flew through it as I really wanted a resolution.  I loved the ending and have been haunted by it since reading it.

Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra were all wonderful points of view and complex women.  I enjoyed reading about all three equally.  I also loved Eliza’s secret or forgotten garden.  Eliza was an orphan that was taken to the estate of her Aunt and Uncle.  There she met her cousin Rose.  Rose was beautiful and about Eliza’s age and they got along famously.  Rose unfortunately, was very sickly.  Eliza suspects her doctor and mother are keeping her indoors too much.  She discovers a garden on the estate that is walled in and seemingly forgotten at the end of a maze.  She works on replanting it and fixing it up with Rose to help bring her back to help.  When author Frances Hodgson Burnett visits during a garden party, she finds inspiration in this garden.  I loved Burnett’s A Secret Garden book as a kid and was thrilled by this reference.

Sadly, while book club was a fun time this week at my house around the fire pit, no one had read this wonderful book, but me.  It seems that many in the club suffer from a fear of big books.  I’m probably not helping matters by selecting Circle of Friends for my next pick.  They did seem intrigued by my summary of the beginning of the book so we’ll see if anyone reads The Forgotten Garden.  One friend was reading it and I think she will finish!

Overall, The Forgotten Garden was a wonderful historical fiction mystery novel about three wonderful women and the ties that bind them.  I would highly recommend it.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. Lovely review, Laura. I will definitely keep an eye out for this book.

  2. This sounds like such a good book--I love the premise, and the characters sound compelling. Too bad no one in book club had read it! That's what I love about blogging--I can always find someone who has read a book that has moved me.

    One of my brothers is probably my most consistently good book recommender. I trust he says the same about me!