The Forgotten Garden, written by Australian novelist Kate Morton, is a compelling story of identity, friendship, family, and secrets, which follows one woman’s search for her true identity, as unvieled through the eyes of the important figures who shape her life, both before and after her. With a backbone of a compelling plot and an intriguing mystery, Morton’s novel truly enchants through its beautifully wound dialogue, imagery and voice. This novel will transport readers into these women’s lives, and straight into their “forgotten garden.”
The Forgotten Garden, is written from the perspective of, primarily, three women, and jumps through time and voice with each unique chapter. The first of these women is Nell, a rather uptight woman who, in her early 20s, and on the brink of her marriage, is told that she is not her parent’s biological child, and in fact, was found abandoned on a ship sent from England to Australia. Nell is crippled by this news, ends her engagement, and begins leading a new, more detached life. She begins her personal journey to self-discovery by tracking her past, ultimately leading her to “the forgotten garden,” an enclosed garden set at a cottage on the Cornish coast on the Blackhurst Manor.
Many years later, Nell’s granddaughter, Cassandra, is living her own story. Cassandra grew up with Nell as her primary guardian, as her own mother (and Nell’s biological daughter) abandoned her at a young age. Cassandra’s story begins in present day, with Nell’s recent death. Cassandra, too, is quickly propelled into the mystery of Nell’s identity, and sets a personal mission to travel to the Blackhurst Manor and collect the final pieces of her grandmother’s puzzle.
Finally, many, many years prior to Cassandra’s search, Eliza Makepeace, a dark fairy-tale writter, is living her own, tragic, story- one which, of course, is intrinsically related to the Blackhurst Manor. Eliza’s fairytales are sprikled throughout the novel, adding an additional layer of depth and fantasy.
All three of these women, their stories, and the characters they interact with respectively are compelling. Although the story reads like honey, -smooth and sweet, without any jagged edges- you will find yourself itching to discover more and more about these women as they themselves unveil new truths.
The Forgotten Garden is deliciously savory, and its poetic prose will transport readers right onto Blackhurst Manor. Morton’s soft tone almost reminds me of an impressionist painting, and this pleasantness alone was enough to have kept me eagerly flipping through her pages. Yet, in actuality, The Forgotten Garden is a compelling mystery as well. Cassandra’s undertaking of Nell’s mission to self-discovery reveals many layers of a story that is, though not shocking, unexpected at times. Through these interwoven tales, Morton probes into themes of family, abandonment, and purpose and identity are probed. I definitely recommend this novel if you are looking for a way to escape to the Cornish coasts without leaving the comfort of your own home.