Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Forgotten Garden

It's rare that I step away from my fast-paced, short-but-sweet young adult novels to read a lengthy piece of regular fiction, particularly one that spans several generations and jumps between character stories. But occasionally, I find myself wanting a delightfully long read that's not over in two days, and since my sister-in-law had recommended The Forgotten Garden to me several times (shocked each time she asked me if I'd read it that I had not), I picked this one, knowing absolutely nothing about it.

But the young woman who discovers on her 21st birthday that she is not the person she always thought she was, whose life is turned upside down in an instant, and whose granddaughter inherits her unsolved mystery captured my full attention. The story spans a century, from the early 1900s to 2005, and two continents, taking place in Australia and England. The characters include Nell, the woman left on a ship by herself when she was only three or four years old; Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter with her own life trauma and baggage; Eliza, the mysterious and captivating Authoress; and a wealthy, selfish, merciless English family.

Normally, descriptive passages slow me down, but author Kate Morton knows just how to hook her readers along, leaving bread crumbs here and there, enticing them to read just a little further to solve just a little more of the mystery. There's a bit of a haunting, magical feel to the story, heightened no doubt by Eliza's fairytales, a few of which are included in their entirety. If anything slowed my reading of this book more than normal, it was probably the character jumping. One chapter might be about Cassandra in 2005. Then we're back to Eliza in 2000. Then we're with Nell in 1975. Some of those points provided too easy of a break at which to put the book down for awhile. However, I was never tempted to leave the story too long. Quite the opposite. I found myself stealing moments during the day to open those 500-plus pages, even when my son was competing for my attention! The last 200, or so, pages were especially difficult to put down. By then, I was starting to piece things together and making guesses about the ending (some of which were right and some of which weren't quite). I put a key piece of the puzzle together approximately 150 pages before the end, but even then, there were discoveries to make and moments to question what I thought I knew.

The Forgotten Garden is a book to delve into at the expense of all else. Kate Morton is a storyteller with a spellbinding gift. This is certainly some of the best adult fiction out there. Five stars.

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