Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Publisher: Atria Books

Publication date: April 2007
Pages: 560

Source: Library
For: Book Group

Nell was abandoned on a ship to Australia when she was only a little girl.  Found by the dockmaster with only some clothes and a book of fairy tales, she remains ignorant of her past until he tells her on her twenty-first birthday.  This launches Nell on a quest to find out about her real parents, a journey that lasts through decades and into her granddaughter's life after Nell's death.  Will they ever know the truth of their past?

Things I Liked:
This was one of those books that intrigues you with family mysteries.  I was really interested in the family history and the processes Nell and Cassandra took to find out about their family.  I must admit, though, that I was more interested in reading the first hand stories of Eliza and Rose than in Nell or Cassandra.  The historical details and the crazy family secrets drew me in more than the other stories.  I also really enjoyed the fairy tale aspect - several stories weaving in and out.  I thought the Frances Hodgson Burnett detail was fun too, what with a bit of secret garden going on.  A complex and interesting story from beginning to end.  I liked this detail:

He was a scribble of a man.  Frail and fine and stooped from a knot in the center of his knobbled back.  Beige slacks with grease spots clung to the marbles of his knees, twiglike ankles rose stoically from oversized shoes, and tufts of white floss sprouted from various fertile spots on an otherwise smooth scalp.  He looked like a character from a children's story.  A fairy story.  p 101
Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit that about 1/3 of the way in, I had already figured Nell's history out.  Perhaps not to the precise details, but I knew a few of the key facts.  That made it slightly less interesting for me, not to mention I wanted to smack Nell and Cassandra for being so blind.  I did not like how much the story jumped around, what with flashbacks right in the middle of backstories during current stories.  I don't mind duel history viewpoints, but when they jump so much, I find it distracting.  There were only a few places in the book that made me want to stop reading because of it, though.  A good story, but not one of my favorites.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
A little The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett tie-in too

s-factor: !@

scattered here and there, nothing too strong

mrg-factor: X
a bit of implied stuff, not much on page

v-factor: -> 
just a little bit

Overall rating: *** 

Do you find yourself liking fewer adult books if you usually read YA or does it still have a draw for you?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. I haven't read this one (yet) but I read Morton's The House at Riverton with my book club last September. The books seem to share some theme and structure elements. I really liked The House at Riverton, so I've definitely got The Forgotten Garden on my to-read list.

    Regarding your question: In compiling my 2011 reading stats, I discovered that half of my reading was YA. I think that the draw for me is that I can read them more quickly than I can adult literary fiction. I do enjoy the adult books I read - but the YA usually bring me a quicker pay-off.

  2. I have this book and The House at Riverton on my shelf. I loved The Thirteenth Tale, so I am glad to hear that this is a read-a-like.

    I have to admit that I tend to neglect my adult books in favor of YA books. Before getting into YA books, I read only adult books, but this past year I read about 150 YA books and only 15 adult books.

  3. I've been meaning to read this one. I even got 50 pages or so into it once, but I wasn't in the right place. Perhaps I'll bump it up again.

  4. I love that you include the positive and the negative. This makes your book review so very helpful!

  5. Alison, yes I often find YA is a bit easier to get into and faster to finish. And the more I read it the less inclined I am to pick up longer, slower adult books!

    Sarah, I only read adult before too and now my ratio is much like yours :-)

    Jessica, definitely give it another try sometime!

    Christy, thanks you! It really helps me in organizing thoughts and being balanced.


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