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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

A November Buddy Read: The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Genre: Historical Fiction; Family Saga

Award: Australian Book Industry (ABIA)

Published 2008; 560 pages

My sister and I read this as a Buddy Read in November. It's been on my TBR for a few years, so I was happy to have a reason to read it. Since we both get our books from the library, it's challenging sometimes to try to time it so we get them approximately the same time and finish the book approximately the same time so our memory of details is fresh.

First Sentence: "It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she'd been told. The lady had said to wait, it wasn't safe yet, they had to be as quiet as larder mice."


I don't usually put blurbs in my reviews, but this is so much more succinct than I could possibly outline the story, that I decided to let Storygraph take over this part.

Storygraph blurb:


On the eve of the First World War, a little girl is found abandoned after a grueling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember of the journey is that a mysterious woman she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. But the Authoress has vanished without a trace. [a couple find her and raises her as their own]


Now an old lady, Nell travels to England to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall, and to a beautiful estate called Blackhurst Manor, which had been owned by the Mountrachet family. What has prompted Nell's journey after all these years?


On Nell's death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into a surprise inheritance. Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, is notorious amongst the locals for the secrets it holds - secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is at Cliff Cottage, abandoned for years, and in its forgotten garden, that Cassandra will uncover the truth about the family and why the young Nell was abandoned all those decades before.

“That, my dear, is what makes a character interesting, their secrets.”

And this multi-generational family saga has secrets galore. The story is told in chapters alternating eras and perspectives - for example, the 1975 era is told from Nell's perspective, then it flips to Cassandra in 2005 or backwards to before Nell's birth in early 1900s. It also splits locales - partly in Australia and partly in Cornwall, England.

“Cassandra always hid when she read, though she never quite knew why. It was as if she couldn't shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong. But surrender she did. Let herself drop through the rabbit hole and into a tale of magic and mystery ...”

Though this quote doesn't really speak to the story, it spoke to me and how much I love being transported by reading.


Donna and I were in basic agreement that we enjoyed The Secret Garden quite a bit. I definitely had some issues with the split timelines and keeping everyone's relationships straight. I found that very confusing through most of the book. The first half in particular had lots of characters introduced and the storyline wasn't cohesive yet so I struggled now and then with trying to figure all the people out. Donna did not have that experience. She was able to remember who was who within a couple lines.

There is a dysfunctional family at the heart of the story and an underlying mystery. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I'd discover I was wrong. Then I'd have another idea - wrong again. I'm okay with that - I like it when the author is smarter than me and keeps me on my toes.

This book might be for you if you enjoy family sagas spanning several generations, or you like dysfunctional family stories, OR if you're a fan of historical fiction in an almost gothic setting. It could be a fun book for a book club too.

This counts in my COYER challenge: 22/54.

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