“The Forgotten Garden” – Should Some Secrets Stay Forgotten?

Book Review : The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Spoiler Alert!

Picture 23Cassandra 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.

Adult Point of View

My first impression was that the book was very slow to get interesting. I believe I had passed about page 160 before it picked up.

The POV flips between times and characters. Nell’s point of view is seen in the present, when she traveled to England and sometimes when she was a child. Eliza’s point of view is always from the past, both her childhood and growth into an adult. Cassandra’s point of view is the present. We also see Rose’s point of view through her scrapbooks and letter. I thought it was a bit cumbersome to have so many “main” characters. In a way the mystery of solving Nell’s parentage is the actual main character and everybody else is supportive of the quest.

I found the book to be rather trite and predictable. Nell never makes the discovery of her full ancestors history. Cassandra discovers most of the past and finally finds hope for love again. We discover that Nell was not ruthlessly kidnapped and abandoned, but was in fact being protected after her parents’ demise. It was also no surprise that Rose was only Ivory’s adopted mother and was actually Eliza’s child. (It’s not like they had in vitro fertilization back then.)

I didn’t think some elements in the story line were even necessary. The largest literary problem was the role of the Uncle and Great Grandfather of Nell. The reader discovers that he had incestuous thoughts about his sister, but that wasn’t the real motive for her leaving the family – she was running away to be married to a poor man. She may have warned Eliza to stay away from the bad man because of her brother’s behavior. Eliza was elusive and did not consciously seem aware that her uncle wanted to have an affair with her. Ivory was disturbed that her Grandfather had the horrid dolly, but was also consciously unaware of his desires. Eliza had taken Ivory to protect her from growing up in her ancestral home, however, she seemed much more concerned over Ivory’s well being around her grandmother than her grandfather. So my question is why did Morton throw in this whole undercurrent of incest when it wasn’t central to the actions of the characters?

This is a wholly sentimental read, written for women. I thought it was alright while I was reading, but on further reflection I find very little in redeeming qualities and lots of complaints.

2.5 out of 5 stars
2 1:2 star

– Michelle

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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