Once upon a time, a little girl found herself all alone on a dock in Australia, unable to remember even her own name. Her one clue to her former life...moreOnce upon a time, a little girl found herself all alone on a dock in Australia, unable to remember even her own name. Her one clue to her former life was a book of fairy tales written by the woman known only to her as the Authoress. Once upon another time, the Authoress was a little girl, too, but an outcast in the English manor of her formidable aunt and reclusive uncle. Her only light was her cousin, Rose, for whom she would do anything in the world. Once upon a third time, a young woman lost everyone in her world and so she traveled across the sea to unravel the a past that connected herself, her grandmother, and the Authoress.
The Forgotten Garden weaves together the stories of these three women, in chapters that skip from the the Authoress’s life in the early 1900s to Nell’s search for her identity in the 1970s to her granddaughter Cassandra’s mission to finish what Nell began thirty years ago. This story works on so many levels, but at heart it is a fairy tale. Morton is a master of this language and her story bears a lot of unpacking. Not only do we have the haunting and beautiful original fairy tales penned by the Authoress, we also see them subtly referenced in the unfolding “real” story. I think what I appreciated most was how this was done with such a light touch. If you want to delve into the symbolism in The Forgotten Garden, it’s there in spades. But if you just want a gothic mystery set in a haunted cottage on the edge of an English manor’s garden maze, this book can be that for you, too.
It reminds me a bit of Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, another fabulous book that proves you can still combine fairy tales, English manors, and little girls and create something striking and fresh. Some of the strength of this genre is found in its familiarity. These tales evoke the ones we heard as children and there’s a natural, emotional response to the earliest stories we knew.
Would I recommend? Definitely. The Forgotten Garden is beautifully written, a compelling mystery, a misty grown-up fairy tale, and quite a satisfying read.
To read more of my reviews, check out my blog at yearofmagicalreading.wordpress.com(less)
I loved The Time Traveler's Wife so much that I was quite nervous about Niffenegger's return to novels. Though I don't think this book had the complex...moreI loved The Time Traveler's Wife so much that I was quite nervous about Niffenegger's return to novels. Though I don't think this book had the complexity of TTW, I still loved it. I think the greatest strength is in the characters. They are all fascinating and bright set against the backdrop of a beautifully rendered London.
The story revolves around two sets of twins: Edie and Elseph and Edie's daughters, Julia and Valentina. When Elseph dies, she leaves all her worldly possessions (even in some ways her boyfriend Robert) to the twins, who come over from America to live in her flat. But Elseph is still in the flat, trapped as a ghost. Some of the strongest parts of the book are in Elseph's early days as a ghost, as she learns the rules of her new existence and tests her powers, sometimes with frightening results.
The other engrossing aspect of the book is the dynamic between Julia and Valentina and the otherness connected with their being twins. Though Julia is the headstrong leader of the two, she can't imagine a life without Valentina and essentially wants to spend her life bound to her twin. Valentina is the meeker of the twins, nicknamed Mouse, but she wants to break away from Julia and live her own life. Playing counterpoint to the two sets of twins are Robert (Elseph and then Valentina's lover) and Martin (the OCD upstairs neighbor who befriends Julia).
My only complaint is perhaps the ending, which gets decidedly weird and dark, and then takes a falsely uplifting turn at the end. It's certainly not a happy ending, but Niffenegger tries to give it a hopeful spin that just didn't ring true to me. Even though it's a ghost story, the depressing ending took me by surprise. (less)
I always enjoy books about books and John Connolly's Book of Lost Things is packed with the things I like - revisions of classic fairy tales that stil...moreI always enjoy books about books and John Connolly's Book of Lost Things is packed with the things I like - revisions of classic fairy tales that still maintain archetypal themes. The story follows a young boy who loves to read and is lured out of his own world into the world of books. His journey into fairy tales forces him to grow up as he fights his own fears and figures out how to return to his family in the real world.
The one thing that I didn't enjoy about The Book of Lost Things was how graphic and violent it was at times. I was surprised by scenes of people being hacked in half, rotting dead carcasses and other violent and shocking images. Connolly has a way of describing these things that makes them truly vile. I know that these graphic images are important to the story - they help the young boy to grow up and teach him about the realities of life. But ultimately they took away from my enjoyment of the story. Maybe I'm just a wuss.(less)