The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I truly enjoyed this book, slightly more so than her first book, The House at Riverton. Where that book could have been considered a bit dreary with no happy endings, I found this one a bit more on the happy side, for lack of a better way of phrasing it.
It is the story of three women - Eliza, Nell, and Nell’s granddaughter, Cassandra. It begins with Nell’s journey aboard ship from England to Australia at about age three. She remembers a lady, but she makes the journey alone. Once the dockmaster realizes no one is coming for her, he takes her home and he and his wife raise her. On her 21st birthday, she is told the story of her arrival. Sadly, it changes her life forever. I say sadly, because in an ideal world, she would have had enough sense of self to love her adoptive parents while trying to learn who she is. I think on some level she did, but the impression is given that it gives her a sense of disconnection from her family. And, it affects how she is a mother. This changes to some extent when she winds up raising her granddaughter, Cassandra.
After Nell’s death, Cassandra learns about Nell’s arrival from her Aunts and then finds out she’s inherited a house in England. It turns out it is a cottage, complete with overrun garden, from Nell’s childhood at Blackthurst Manor. From there the book interweaves between Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra and brings in Rose, Eliza’s cousin. In the end, nothing is as it appears. There is some sadness in this book even though I still consider it a somewhat uplifting book. The sadness to me comes from the time period itself - a time when society and it’s rules were all important. For me, the sadness comes from the end of a true friendship due to Rose’s desires. In the end, Rose became a person I didn’t want her to become and her fears ultimately led to her end and to Eliza’s end. It made me look at the nature of friendship and family. Of course, the time period played a role here, but it shows the shifting nature of people and how wants and desires can change them.
This book did leave me with unanswered questions; there is the untold story of Georgiana, Eliza’s mother, and her older brother, Linus. We learn very little of Georgiana other than she is in hiding from a man. Upon her death, she implores Eliza, still a young girl, to avoid this mystery man at all costs. Then, there is Linus, who apparently has a disability and maybe has some mental illness, but we just get random notes on this. We are never given definite answers about Georgiana or Linus, though hints are throughout the novel. Still, I kind of wish definitive answers had been provided.
In the end, Cassandra learns the whole story, which probably not even Nell knew, and in doing so she is able to move forward with her own life. This book left me thinking, as did her other book, about people and how our actions affect us and others.
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