Author: Kate Morton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Date Published: 2008
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
It is a ship set to sail from London to Brisbane in 1913 that spurs the entangled, enticing story of The Forgotten Garden. But, luckily for us, we need neither months aboard a vessel nor the ability to time travel to unravel this mystery. Instead, we must only look to Kate Morton, whose encapsulating voice carries us across continents and centuries with her story centered around a foster child named Nell. At first, Nell’s world is shattered when her father informs her that she was adopted. After her father’s death in 1975, Nell hoped to travel back to England from Australia to discover her true origins, but her granddaughter Cassandra’s unexpected, elongated stay kept her from continuing her search. In 2005, with Nell on her deathbed, Cassandra continues her grandmother’s journey, determined to piece together the puzzle that is their family history.
Coming in at a hefty 552 pages, The Forgotten Garden is no light read – but it is a quick one. The chapters seep with mystery, and each question answered only raises new complications. Every time I thought I had the mystery solved, a new revelation would force me to reconsider and read on. Despite the many hours of sleep sacrificed, I finished the novel in a matter of days.
Though Morton waits until the very last page to fully enlighten her readers, the journey that gets us there is well worth it. Morton is a master storyteller in both her descriptions that drive the main plot and in the gems of original fairy tales that are sprinkled throughout the novel. While reading, I was often conflicted between a subconscious desire to admire the genius of her writing and my need to know what would happen next. With The Forgotten Garden, Morton creates a beautiful homage to the institution of storytelling.
I recommend this book, or any Kate Morton novel for that matter, to everyone. The Forgotten Garden has earned a distinction in my head I previously thought impossible to win: favorite book. As far as I’m concerned, this book has everything: mystery, beauty, compelling characters, prodigious prose. And while I’ve read - and loved - all of Morton’s other books, The Forgotten Garden is unquestionably the best.
Review by Laura Baumgartner, A&S '16 Illustration by Kayla D'Ambrosio, A&S '14