A Mercy

The Forgotten Garden

by Kate Morton

Patti's Pages: Three women, Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra, of different generations, are on a journey of discovery. Each travels to a cottage on the Blackhurst Manor estate in Cornwall. Eliza is plucked from a Dickensian childhood in the late 1800s to her rightful home at Blackhurst, where her mother was the apple of her brother's eye. Eliza becomes the companion of Rose Mountrachet at the manor, but retires to the cottage when her role as Rose's confidante is filled by Rose's new husband. Eliza is known as the Authoress, writing fairy tales that stem from the experiences of her own rags-to-almost-riches life.

Nell is a child in the first chapter of the book, abandoned by the Authoress on a ship bound for Australia. On her 21st birthday, the man who raised her tells her that he is not her father and that he knows nothing about Nell's real family. This revelation sets Nell on a quest to discover her roots and the reason for her solo voyage long ago, armed just with a first edition of Eliza's collection of fairy tales that was in her suitcase on the ship. While in England, she recognizes Rose's portrait as that of her mother and proceeds to buy Eliza's cottage, with the full intention of moving there from Australia. However, an abandoned child comes into her own life --- her granddaughter Cassandra.

When Nell dies, leaving her the cottage, Cassandra, too, travels to Cornwall and finds that restoring the garden at the cottage helps restore her own life, providing a distraction from the well of grief that she has sunken into. This novel is sort of a braid of these three women's lives that Morton unwinds for us, just as Cassandra untangles the overgrowth and the secrets of the cottage. The book is slightly confusing, in that it is difficult to keep up with each woman's progress in fitting together the pieces of the puzzle, but it doesn't really matter who is unraveling what. Fortunately for the reader, Morton heads up each chapter with an approximate date, so that we at least know whose story we are about to resume. This book reminds me of A. S. Byatt's Possession, one of my all-time favorites, but with occasional fairy tales, rather than poems, interspersed throughout the book.
Rating: *****

Chris Mehling: I agree with all the reviews on this book. It is one of the BEST books I have ever read! I could not wait to get to the end of the book, however; it made be very sad....sad that I finished it! Has anyone read any other books by Kate Morton? It would be interesting to see if her wonderful story telling comes to life in her other books.
Rating: *****

Barb Crout: This is the best book I've read this year - thank you, Kate Morton!
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss: There is not much more that can be said about this book that hasn't already been said. I loved this book and I loved the characters and the fairy tales! I looked forward to reading each chapter and finding all the clues that helped to piece together the mysterious family history of Nell. Everyone should read this book if they can.
Rating: *****

Arlene Almas: What a wonderful story this is! Stretching all the way from 1900 to 2005, it tells of three independent, powerful women: Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra. Their tale moves between Cornwall, England, and Brisbane, Australia, as Nell, then her granddaughter Cassandra, try to solve the mystery of their family background. They are helped by the contents of a small white suitcase which Nell carried when she arrived in 1913, all alone, on a ship from England to Australia. Among other items in the suitcase is an illustrated children's book of magical fairy tales, which both Nell and Cassandra are drawn to. Blackhurst Manor in Cornwall, home of the aristocratic Mountrachet family, figures strongly in the narrative and anchors the English side of the story. See if you can connect the dots and solve the mystery before the author makes everything clear!
Rating: *****

Anne Ferber: I enjoyed this book as well as you all did. One thing I found particularly amusing was a lawn party given by the family in the early century segment of the book. One of the illustrious guests was Frances Hodgson who was totally not interested in any of the guests or even the hosts, but who only wanted to go through the maze and find the forgotten garden, a request that was forcefully discouraged, but at last, granted. This book reads like a fairy tale. Good fun.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton: Most mysteries are whodunits, trying to solve a crime or a murder. The Forgotten Garden takes mystery to a new level, with a quest to find one's very roots....over three generations of time. The author deftly overlays the long past, recent past, and current plots, until they converge to solve the puzzle. No pretty ribbon on things all tied up perfectly here; while the ending is upbeat, the road getting there is pretty rocky. Forgotten Garden is a great read that kept calling me back to find out more details. I found myself thinking of the book when I wasn't reading, trying to work out "what really happened" and why, in my mind. Highly recommended.
Rating: *****

Judy Goldman: I also loved this book. I am usually put off by books that flip back and forth, often getting lost in the process, but not this time. By giving the story line from each of the generations one gets a better perspective and it all comes together with complete understanding. I read this at night in bed, and I looked forward to "seeing" the characters each night and felt that I was reconnecting with friends. You are sure you know what will happen, but you keep reading to see if it is so, but there are so twists that are not expected. The fairy tales give clues, don't skp over them. You will enjoy this book, don't miss it.
Rating: *****

Dale Israel: It's 1913 and a little girl is left all alone on a ship headed for Australia. The dock master finds her and takes her home to his wife to be raised as their own. On her 21st birthday, Nell's father tells her the truth and for the rest of her life, Nell attempts to figure out the mystery of who she is and why she was left all alone on the ship. Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, is a thick, juicy, page turning tale. It grabbed my attention from the get go and didn't let stop until the last page was turned. Until I figured out the rhythm of the book, I was initially a little confused as the story jumps between 1913, 1975, and 2005 and between several narrators. However, this is a small price to pay for an intriguing storyline that pulled me in...I couldn't put this book down and now that the last page has been turned I'm saddened that it's over. Luckily, Kate Morton wrote another book (The House at Riverton) and has a new one due out in November. I can't wait to read these other books and I hope they will be as divine as the Forgotten Garden. I LOVED this book!
Rating: *****

Daphne Rice: I'm so excited to see The Forgotten Garden as the featured book! My book club just finished this book and it was touted as "the best we've read so far".

The story takes place in the early 1900's, current times and the mid seventies all at once. It tends to jump back and forth from chapter to chapter but you get comfortable with it and understand it is truly the best way to unfold the story. The book follows Nell, a child abandoned on a ship in the 1900's and her life and search for who she really is. The story is told from three different points of view depending on the decade. Adventure and interesting side stories abound. There are also some fairy tales within the book, written by one of the main characters, that serve to clue the reader in to what is really going on. DO NOT SKIP OVER THEM!

The book is on the long side but will not seem so; you will want to keep reading and turning pages to reveal the big secret at the end, even though you may THINK you have it figured out earlier.
Rating: ****

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