Book Review: “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Fiction/Mystery/551 Pages

I am a nut when it comes to mystery and thriller novels. I love to get my brain going with possible scenarios and suspects, and I like finding out by the end whether my theories were right or not. Most of the time, they are. Reading this mystery novel was no exception. I am not saying it was too predictable; I am simply saying that I may have read too many “whodunnit” novels to desensitize my ability to be “surprised” by anything. I often find myself yelling “I knew it!” way too often.

This mystery novel is about a 4-year-old girl, “Nell”, who was abandoned on a ship headed to Australia from England in 1913. Nell had nothing with her but a small suitcase of clothes and a book of fairy tales. She is discovered by the dock-master who eventually raises her as his own with his wife. On her 21st birthday, they tell her the truth, in which she subsequently goes on a quest to trace her real identity. Her journey eventually leads her to England, but it isn’t until her granddaughter, Cassandra, who takes up the search after her death that all of the pieces of the puzzle start coming together.

This book is 551 pages long. I thought a lot could have been cut out, but at the same time, I also wished that there were more added in. Cassandra’s back story about her husband and child were never expanded, though they were briefly mentioned, often times in passing, throughout the novel. What I did like is that the story includes everything: love, loss, abandonment, redemption, scandal, and romance, in addition to the suspense and intrigue that comes with mystery novels. However, many characters are involved within a scope of three generations, so keeping up may come slowly to some at first; and there is the relationship dynamic of a man and his sister, and the same man and his niece that was never fully explained or realized in the novel—-which disappointed me because I felt that those relationships were a very large part of the story. I am still annoyed by the unanswered questions I posed about them. If you end up reading this book and come up with a possible theory, please enlighten me.

There were a few quotes that I considered gems in this novel. The first: “Memory is a cruel mistress with whom we must all learn to dance.” Ain’t that the truth?! Some of my own personal memories have been cruel, but I have learned to dance in time with them, choosing the music to which I dance them to, since it is the only thing I can control.

Another is “You make a life out of what you have, not what you’re missing.” There have been times in my life where I tried to picture an alternate life—-but quickly realized that the life I live now is amazing, and I have everything. I ain’t missin’ a thaaaang.

All in all, I did enjoy this book, despite my aforementioned hang-ups. It also is the first book in a while that had me thinking about my own life. Maybe it’ll do the same for you.

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