A Review: Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden

Before I purchased the novel I had a vague idea of what I was getting myself into.  I knew that the story had a secret garden, hence the name, and, I'll admit, snagged me from the get-go. Aside from the mysterious garden, I was pretty much in the dark.  While I enjoyed this because it was much lighter (well, sort of) and offered me some escape, there was much lacking.

The novel traces the lives of 4 (or 5 or maybe 6) women:  Rose Mountrachet, the daughter of Linus and Adeline Mountrachet; Eliza Makepeace, the cousin of Rose, and daughter of Linus's sister, Georgiana; Nell, abandoned orphan, and grandmother to Cassandra.  Okay, so there are a lot of women in this novel.

A Short Synopsis:

A four year old is found on the shore of an Australian town with nothing but a tiny suitcase to her name.  Twenty years later, Nell's (later Ivory) adopted father confesses this secret, sending Nell on an expedition to find her biological family through clues found in the suitcase.  After Nell's death, a note is left for her granddaughter, Cassandra, explaining that a small cottage overlooking the sea has been left for her.  Cassandra, dealing with her own scarred past, makes her way to England to finally solve the mystery of Nell's birthright.

Ok.  I find that it's almost impossible to include a "short" synopsis for this title.  The book was over 600 pages, and, while not as detailed as something you might expect from Tolstoy, it contained enough stories to be anything but easy to explain.  I find the review slightly taxing considering the amount of activity going on with each character.

Morton moves through the past and present to complete her story, using fairy tales and gothic literature to build her characters.  Eliza, Rose's talented and orphaned cousin, weaves fairy tales to help soothe her ailing cousin, and to express her own desires and disappointments.  While I felt that some of Morton's tales were wholly original, many were completely ripped from other well-known fairy tales.

Rose's father Linus, and Eliza's uncle, possesses an unnatural infatuation with his sister Georgiana, who has run away from the family home to follow her love and dies leaving her two children Eliza, and twin, Sammy, at the mercy of a greedy landlord.  Once Linus manages to find Eliza, he brings her back to the Mountrachet estate in an attempt to capture her forever. This part of the novel really piqued my interest, it was slightly disturbing like the events in another of my favorites: The Thirteenth Tale; however, Morton briefly throws the lurking Linus around here and there without ever really developing his creepiness.

Upon discovery that Nell is actually the child of other parents, she literally calls off her marriage to a man she loves, and turns a cold shoulder to the family she's loved as her own.  While never expressing (she doesn't ever really express much at all, honestly) that she feels betrayed by her family, she suddenly becomes almost obsessed with finding her biological family and plans to leave Australia forever to take her "true place" in England.

That is... until Nell's flighty daughter Leslie, who also makes brief appearances, leaves young Cassandra at her doorstep, altering her plans forever.  Cassandra learns of her grandmother's secret after she has passed away.  Between Cassandra's personal struggle and the trip she embarks on to uncover her grandmother's family history, there's more drama than a daytime television show.

The novel's key characters all struggle with loss and isolation.  The entire tone of the novel is rather dark and sorrowful.  The delight of finding love and the hidden garden don't hold enough weight to brighten up the story in any way.  It seems that while the garden may have brought joy to Eliza and Rose, while children, it holds dreadful memories of a past that will never again be.  For Rose, it becomes a place that must be closed off, a place where life flourishes with utmost ease; Eliza, a prison from which she must escape.  Towards the end of the novel, Morton offers Cassandra a fresh start, and also manages to attain the answers her grandmother so desperately sought out during her lifetime.

The novel, while entertaining, was far from anything I'd call exceptional.  The characters were mostly unoriginal and lacked a certain depth that I feel the reader really needed to suspend disbelief.  I never found myself yearning to pick it up to uncover the next mystery; it flipped so quickly back and forth, and rapidly deployed one shocking incident after another, that I was only reading to finish because so much time had already had been invested.  There were moments when the writing was quite magical, but there were far more moments where I felt it was dull and oversimplistic.


  1. Meh. I'll steer clear of this one.

  2. Brenna,

    It sounds like it's absolutely terrible, but it isn't really so horrible that I'm telling people not to read it. I just felt like parts could have been developed more for an absolute stellar read. The concept was mysterious and exciting, but Morton just didn't follow through.

  3. Wow, just reading your synopsis is exhausting! :-) It sounds like the author lost focus. One great story would have been better than multiple "okay" stories. But if you stuck with it for 600 pages, there must have been some good moments!

  4. It sounds like there's a bit too much going on?
    I don't think it's for me.

  5. Yes, there was so much going on. The numerous perspectives just added too much and left so much barely discussed. It was a fine enough novel, but it did seem like she was attempting so much.

  6. I think I enjoyed this one quite a bit more than you did mainly because I got caught up in the mystery aspect. I do wish there was a way for Morton's novels to be shorter, though. 600+ pages is no small task. Her latest novel, The Distant Hours, is my favorite of hers, but the plot is once again quite dark so I am not sure if you would enjoy it.

    Either way, good review! I like reading others' thoughts on books I, too, have read :)

  7. I tend to agree. I got halfway through this monster and put it down for a break and read a lighter novel. After finishing the break novel I picked this up again and tried to finish. I just couldn't do it. Regardless of the time I'd already put into it, I decided that life is too short to read books I don't enjoy. I'm still curious about how the rest of it unfolds, but not enough to waste my time.

  8. I loved this book- reading it for the second time. I didn't find it hard to follow at all. I too read The Thirteenth Tale, recommend both!

  9. I really enjoyed the story, loved the garden ( my garden will mean more to me now) and made me nostalgic since I am an ex-pat brit ...despite all the heartache. I feel well blessed now and not so homesick and hard done by in comparison! However , i did feel exhausted at the end, it was quite a feat to get my brain around the complex timeline and characters and the link between the fairy tales and their lives.

  10. I am currently reading this book and loving it. Switching back and forth between characters is challenging but I am really enjoying the core story. The second book I have read by Kate Morton and I want more!!!

  11. I loved this book, it challenged my mind with the back and forth story, but it was worth it. I think if you give up too early you miss the most important part of the book. The last half was the best, the part that brought all that confusing back and forth together for a touching, emotional ending. I recommend it, and will read it again...this time I'll know the characters better which will make it a easier read.

  12. I also loved this book... couldn't wait to pick it up to get more clues. The characters had complex connections and it really was suspenseful, in an English manor sort of way. Well worth the read!

  13. I enjoy what you guys are up too. This type of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the terrific works guys I've added you guys to my personal blogroll.
    my page - wesite hosting

  14. I appreciate, cause I discovered just what I was taking a look for.
    You've ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye
    My blog ... collagen supplements

  15. I'll right away seize your rss feed as I can't in finding your
    e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
    Do you've any? Kindly let me understand so that I could subscribe. Thanks.
    Also see my page - online shopping

  16. obviously like your website however you need to check the spelling on several of your posts.
    Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find
    it very bothersome to inform the truth on the other hand I will certainly come back again.
    My web page disposable contacts

  17. What's up it's me, I am also visiting this website regularly, this site is really pleasant
    and the viewers are in fact sharing pleasant thoughts.
    My web-site :: Salespeople seo

  18. Hi there! This article could not be written any better!

    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept preaching about this. I'll forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
    Feel free to visit my web site ; ftp hosting

  19. Hey there! This post could not be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!

    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
    Here is my page :

  20. Thanks for some other informative blog. Where else may just I
    get that kind of info written in such an ideal way?
    I have a challenge that I am simply now working
    on, and I've been at the look out for such information.

    Feel free to surf to my web-site :: free online coupons


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...