“It was the first story she’d ever trapped on paper, and to see her thoughts and ideas turned to concrete was curious. It made her skin seem unusually sensitive, strangely exposed and vulnerable. Breezes were cooler, the sun warmer. She couldn’t decide whether the sensation was one she liked or loathed.”
Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is 549 pages and was published in 2008 by Washington Square Press. I recently read Morton’s The Distant Hours and enjoyed it so much I bought her other books. I was especially interested in this novel because it weaves time periods and plot lines, and I was not disappointed.
The book begins when a small girl is abandoned on a boat bound for Australia by a virtual stranger, known to the girl only as “the authoress.” When she arrives in Brisbane, she is adopted by the dockmaster and his wife. Only a small suitcase of clothing and a book of fairy tales link her to the past she’s left behind, and her memories fade as she grows happily in her new family.
On her twenty-first birthday, however, her father tells her about her past. It shakes her faith in her family and herself and she becomes consumed with searching for her lost identity. Her quest leads her to the Cornish coast of England to Blackhurst Manor, a small cottage on its grounds, and a hidden garden at the end of a maze. While she never fully finds all the answers she’s looking for, her granddaughter picks up where she left off and finally solves the mystery that destroyed several families and their legacies.
The Forgotten Garden is a complex literary mystery spanning multiple generations. The chapters move back and forth in time and trace the journeys of the women in each place. Morton deftly handles transitions, and the shift in time is a natural suspense technique.
Morton’s book is unique and her characters are memorable. Her overall tone and style remind me of A S Byatt, who is one of my favorite authors of all time. I highly recommend The Forgotten Garden.