Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Forgotten Garden—Review

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is the story of a 4-year-old girl who turns up all alone on a dock in Australia in 1913 with only a small white suitcase to give clues to who she is. The Forgotten Garden is the story of multiple generations of women trying to figure out the secrets to their past, trying to find family, trying to be whole. There's Eliza the fairy tale writer and Rose the ill English lady living in England in 1909; Nell, the little girl who was raised in Australia and wants to learn who she was before; and Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter, continuing the search to reveal the mystery of her family, but herself heart-broken from her own past. And at the center of all this is a cottage on a cliff overlooking an ocean, a cottage with a wild lovely garden, a cottage you must find your way through a maze to get to.

You've heard me rant and rage about this book. Having finished the book, I'm still extremely ambivalent about it. It was chock full of flaws, bad writing, misused words and misinformation, but it was ultimately a good read. The parts written in the present day (2005, 1975) were very good; they lacked the pretense of the sections written in the Edwardian period. If you cast a blind eye to the melodrama, there is an enticing mystery and fun plot. Granted, it only took me about a quarter of the book to figure out who Nell's parents were (it's not that hard to guess, Ms Morton!), and it annoyed me to no end how the author would make sections purposefully ambiguous, or cut to a new scene in the middle of a conversation so that the characters couldn't reveal anything, all in the name of sustaining the mystery—but it was still enjoyable to read the book just to find out the twists and turns that contrived to get Nell's parents together and then abandon Nell on a boat to Australia.

Final conclusion: Don't read this book if you are a picky, well-educated reader, unless you know you can sometimes set aside your pickiness to simply enjoy the unfolding of a story.

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