I don't know about any of you, but I grew up with fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen, Grimms, and Disney's interpretations of them, so fairy tales have always resonated well with me. Kate Morton obviously felt the same way, because the Forgotten Garden was centered around a beautiful book of fairy tales.
Let me fill you in...
A little girl, Nell is found abandoned on a ship dock in 1913, clutching only a suitcase with a dress and a book of fairy tales. The shipmaster and his wife take her in, but never tell her the truth about her parentage. On her 21st birthday her father explains to her that he never knew who her true family is, and from that time on Nell's sense of belongingness was shattered. She begins her search, and eventually finds out a great deal about her true family, but never uncovers the reason why she is abandoned. Due to circumstance, namely a granddaughter she becomes guardian of, she is never able to resume her search and dies without ever knowing the truth.
Nell's granddaughter, Cassandra, resumes the search for her, and through a complicated plot of love, betrayal, crime, and 3 generations of women, the truth if finally revealed. The book alternates between the lives of Nell, her granddaughter Cassandra, and the author of the fairy tale book, Eliza. Eventually the 3 different stories come together to form a cohesive whole, and the reader finally understands the truth.
Phew! I must say, this was a very complicated plot just to summarize, let alone write, so my props to the author! She truly has a gift for writing mysteries, because I simply could not put it down. Morton was able to drop subtle hints at the truth that kept the reader guessing, sacrificing sleep in the hope of solving the riddle.
The storyline has similarities to The Secret Garden, but Morton is able to attribute that to the author of that book being in attendance at a garden party held by the family in question, and is apparently inspired by the family's strange circumstances (an estranged cousin, Eliza author of the Fairy tale book is taken in by her aunt and uncle, and becomes fast friends with her sickly cousin. Together they repair a walled off garden as Eliza's cousin Rose regains her health. Sound familiar?) But Morton gracefully explains that away, so no harm done!
What I most loved about this book was the way that you are kept guessing right up until the very end, and when I closed the book I just sat there, trying to make sense of what I had just read. It is an intoxicating, mysterious, addictive read!
If you are in the mood for a benign mystery, I highly recommend this book!
Stay tuned for my next review, Splintered!