Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden
Kate Morton
5 / 5

Published 2008

First Sentences
"It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she'd been told.  The lady had said to wait, it wasn't safe yet, they had to be as quiet as larder mice.  It was a game, just like hide-and-seek."
Publisher's Description:
A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton. 

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. 

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.
Dear Reader,

Wow.  I just LOVED this book.  I can't think of anything that was wrong with it.  It was an adventure story, a mystery, a family saga, and much more, all rolled into one.  Oh, and I can't forget: it was also a fairy tale of sorts, and fairy tales play a very large part in this book. 

The premise is that there is a very young girl who is found on the docks of a port in Australia in 1913.  She has no memory of her past, and no idea who or where her parents are.  The things she carries with her lend no clues to her identity.  Therefore, the harbormaster takes her in and eventually he and his wife adopt the child as their own.  Over the years, Nell grows up believing she is their daughter.  When she is finally told the truth of her origins - or rather, her lack of them - her world is turned upside down.  She begins a quest to learn the truth of her heritage.  

The book jumps back and forth between a turn-of-the-century story about a destitute young girl trying to survive in a corrupt London, daily life in a lord's manor house at around that same time, a 1975 trip which Nell takes to the England town where she believes she has roots, and another 2005 trip which her granddaughter Cass makes to dig deeper into the mystery.  I love all of the layers and the wonderful writing style which Morton employs.  Her characters are real, very multi-dimensional, and truly sympathetic - even when some of them become corrupted, that just makes them more human.  The whole book feels like something of a fairy tale, and very magical, even though the entire book is at the same time totally realistic.  I think it's more the way the book is framed, and how the tale unfolds.  It's as if Morton has written something of a modern-day fairy tale. 

I don't know if I've mentioned how I do things regarding my bookshelves, but my general rule is that if I truly love a book, I want to own a copy for myself.  That way, I can return to it (although I rarely reread) or lend it, or simply see it and smile at an old and happy friend.  I definitely plan to aquire for myself a copy of this book.  One of the best I've read in a while.  Beautiful and enchanting.  I didn't want it to end.

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