Lucy's Reviews > The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
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Jul 22, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2010

After hearing many glowing comments about Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, I decided to forgo the long reserve line at the library and buy myself a copy.

Even with its respectable five-hundred and forty-eight page heft, I didn't want to put this book down. The Forgotten Garden begins with an unnamed girl playing a hiding game on a ship. A few pages later, a girl named Nell is turning twenty-one and her father reveals to her a devastating truth: she is not their daughter. He discovered her standing alone holding a small suitcase which contains a book of fairy tales and an extra dress on the wharf where he worked when she was only four years-old.

While it's not exactly a mystery, because the reader is never quite sure if a crime has ever been committed, wanting to learn who Nell is, who she was before she arrived on a different continent, alone, and without knowing her name is a strong motivator to keep reading.

Morton doesn't hand over her clues upfront, however. Instead, she weaves the story of Eliza Makepeace, the author of little Nell's book of fairy tales, and Nell's own granddaughter's, Cassandra, story into Nell's quest to rediscover her lost identity.

Most of the time, I enjoyed the weaving. It's done so subtly, like coming in and out of dream sequences, that, unlike some other books that use this technique, I didn't find myself wishing to be back in one story and out of another. I will say, though, that hindsight has made me wish certain plot holes were filled and left wondering why other information, that now seems superfluous, was included. Also, I was a little bit disappointed with the character development. Instead of really getting to know Nell, whose story this might have been, Morton instead chooses to use Nell's sense of loss to pose the question: what influences our sense of identity? How do we become who we are? Is it our name? Who our parents are? Is it who we marry or the status of our socioeconomic level? Is it our talents, or fame or careers? Is it our tragedies? Yes. All of them or none of them depending on what we decide matters most.

If you enjoy stories that transport you into Victorian England, have a touch of romance, the pull of mystery, the weight of history as well as a few revealing fairy tales, you'll probably love The Forgotten Garden.
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Reading Progress

05/23/2010 page 645
99.54% "hmmm..." 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Jane I'm reading that now too and really enjoying it.


Lucy Me too! I've heard good things and I am normally worried about reading things that come so highly recommended, because my expectations get too high, but I'm enjoying it so far.


message 3: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Great review, Lucy. I didn't enjoy this book as much as everyone else, and I hate when that happens. :) Your review made me want to revisit it. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood to fully appreciate it.


message 4: by Annalisa (last edited May 25, 2010 06:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Annalisa Lucy, you want to take a long drive next month for book club :). This was Amy's pick. I'll be reading it soon. Then I'll come back and read your review.


Jane As an adoptive parent, one thing I didn't care for in the book was how Nell seemed to turn away from her adoptive family in her search for the biological link. It also wasn't clear to me why she didn't try to have a better relationship with her own daughter, Leslie.


Lucy Totally agree, Jane. That was my complaint when I said that I wish she (and other characters) had been better developed. Why was she so estranged from her daughter? Were we just to assume that finding out her parents didn't give birth to her was so devastating that she made a muck out of the rest of her life? But, little comments here and there didn't support that theory. I don't know. I was sad that she let go of a happy existence in exchange for an unknown one.

There were other things I was unclear about. Like, how did Christian get a copy of the rare book of fairy tales and who was his mother whose favorite place was inside the garden.

Loads of possible things to discuss:)


Lucy Annalisa wrote: "Lucy, you want to take a long drive next month for book club :). This was Amy's pick. I'll be reading it soon. Then I'll come back and read your review."

I wish! I'm thinking of picking it for my month in August, but it's pretty long and I'm not sure it's the best choice for summer, you know? I'm leaning towards Frankie Landau-Banks, because most of the women in my group actually have teenage daughters but I want to read the new Yann Martel book before choosing. I've heard such mixed things about it, I'm curious.


Lucy Laurel wrote: "Great review, Lucy. I didn't enjoy this book as much as everyone else, and I hate when that happens. :) Your review made me want to revisit it. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood to fully appre..."

Don't you hate it when everyone seems to love a book you didn't? It feels like you're missing something. I feel like the only person who doesn't like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. All the sequel books are out and they are everywhere and everyone is talking about them but I didn't like the first book so why should I read the others? Except, maybe I read it wrong because I seem to be the only one:)

But do you revisit? It seems like there are too many books to read to give something you didn't like a second chance.


message 9: by Laurel (last edited Jul 29, 2010 12:44PM) (new)

Laurel I didn't like The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo either, so there's at least 2 of us out there. :) I did read the sequel (I actually read the 2nd book first), but won't be reading the 3rd.

I do sometimes revisit a book I fully enjoy, but only if it's a book I can tell had some merit, and that I perhaps wasn't in the right mood to read at the time. Sometimes I have trouble focusing on a book (particularly audio-books) if I have a lot on my mind, or I'm not feeling well, or whatever the case may be. If I think it may have been the timing, then I may go back and try again at another point. If I'm pretty sure it's the book, then (as you said), there are too many books out there to waste time on giving a bad one a second chance.


Holly S. Just finished this and hated for it to end.


Kristin I just finished this book...on your recommendation. I LOVED IT!!


Sandra I enjoyed this tale at the beginning but as I neard the end it was to detailed. I liked the bit of mystery and somewhat magical angle but was a bit annoyed the magic didn't really do anything. I could not put it down to start and read it in 2 weeks for me that quick with a bbook this size!!! 4/5 from me.


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