Sunday, January 21, 2018

Review: THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN by Kate Morton

Rating: 5/5 stars

Kate Morton just became my new favourite author, and this was only the first book of hers that I've read.

The Forgotten Garden is a mysterious multi-generational historical fiction. It was everything I wanted in a good book, and I was completely lost in its seemingly magical English setting. The book follows Nell, who finds out on her twenty-first birthday that her parents are not her biological parents. This news shatters her sense of identity, and Nell becomes determined to discover the truth of her origins. Throughout her life, Nell searches for answers to her past, but her journey is suddenly put to an end when extenuating circumstances take over. Now dying from old age in her final days and unable to uncover the full truth, Nell leaves the search of her identity to her granddaughter, Cassandra. Cassandra is intrigued to take up this journey, and she travels across the world to find the answers that have been hidden for almost a century in a forgotten garden.

This story is told from many viewpoints but most notably from Nell's perspective in the 1970s, from Cassandra's perspective in the present day (2005), and from Eliza's perspective in the turn of the twentieth century. For the first fifty or so pages of this book, the jumping time periods and multiple points of view were a bit confusing, and I had some trouble keeping all the details straight, but soon I learned each character's voice and was able to follow along clearly. The multiple time periods add suspense to the story that just kept me turning the pages because some detail would be revealed, and I wanted to see how the characters reacted to it, but then the chapter would end and the next chapter in a new decade would start. Each chapter ended like this, which just kept my interest piqued throughout the whole story.

Something that Kate Morton does very well in this book (and I presume in her other books?) is to answer questions throughout the whole story. I do not like reading mysteries where the author keeps introducing more and more questions and adding to the suspense but will not drop any hints or answers until the very last page. Those books feel so rushed, and I just get frustrated. This book is completely different: we get answers all along the journey with the characters as they slowly learn secrets of their pasts. Of course, this means we also get more questions, but that is to be expected. I savoured every detail and loved trying to piece together the puzzle right along with the characters.

On the same note, another thing that Kate Morton does exceptionally well is to keep the reader guessing until the very end. I had speculations at the beginning, but she challenged my thoughts with every chapter. I thought I knew exactly the right answers, who was connected to who, but then another piece of history would come to light and I would have to rethink all my assumptions. Readers truly do not get the last piece of the puzzle until the last few chapters of the book. I loved that Morton wrote in this manner because I really dislike reading a book and knowing the end very early on; it makes the story lackluster and very predictable, but The Forgotten Garden was anything but.

In short, I devoured this book and was completely lost in the historical time period within its pages. I loved the main characters and their stories and felt like I knew them personally from all the details shared about their lives. This book is not a fantasy, but it has a magical, ethereal quality to it that I just adored. I would love to have my very own forgotten garden like the one in this book, but alas, I do not. What I do have, however, is the desire to read every one of Kate Morton's books now because I can only hope they are as beautiful as this one is.

You make a life out of what you have, not what you're missing.

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