The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The story of how a deception affects the lives of three women. A good holiday read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 350 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Pan
ISBN: 978-6102850

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Just before the First World War a little girl was found abandoned on the wharf after a dreadful sea voyage from England to Australia. She appears not to know her name – or is unwilling to tell it – and all she will say is that a mysterious lady she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. There's no trace of her though and the little girl was taken in a by a friendly family. She forgot all about the events until many years later when her adopted father told her what had happened.

In 1975 Nell, now in her late sixties, returned to England in an attempt to unravel the mystery of her birth. The quest takes her to Cornwall and Blackhurst Manor, which had been the home of the Mountrachet family. She intended to return to Australia, tidy up her affairs and then return to England for good, but before she could do this her wayward and wilful daughter left Cassandra with her and Nell put her intentions to one side to look after her granddaughter.

Thirty years later Nell died without ever having the chance to return to England and Cassandra – now widowed – has a surprise inheritance. She is now the owner of Cliff Cottage on the Blackhurst Manor estate. It's been abandoned for many years and Cassandra begins to uncover the secrets and scandals in her family background.

I loved The House at Riverton. After a rather slow opening I quite simply couldn't put it down and regretted turning the last page. Given the chance I would have started at the beginning and read it again. I wasn't quite so impressed by The Forgotten Garden. It's the story of three women of different generations. Eliza is the authoress in question and Nell the abandoned child. Cassandra is the granddaughter. Put flatly like that it seems quite simple but there's a tangled web of relationships around Eliza and her family which I didn't really sort out until I was about two-thirds of the way through the book. Some of the characters are just too similar, although Eliza and Cassandra are engaging and you want everything to work out for them.

I read most of the story on a couple of long train journeys. It would have been similarly good for a beach read, but it is rather too predictable for more serious reading. The solution to the mystery was signalled from quite a distance and whilst I didn't feel particularly cheated I didn't have the sense of surprise which I had when I finished The House at Riverton.

If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan or A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer.

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