Review and Commentary: “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton

ForgottenI recently suggested Kate Morton to a fellow reader at work because her mysteries are so interesting, and The Forgotten Garden is no different from her previous books. Literally. She always writes about a mystery from the past that someone from a today-ish time period is trying to solve.

But with The Forgotten Garden, Morton adds in someone in between the two time periods who is also trying to solve the mystery. Simple, right?

Here’s a rundown: After the death of her grandmother, Nell, in 2005, Cassandra finds she has inherited a house in Cornwall, a house she did not realize existed previously. She finds Nell’s journal from 1975 and discovers that Nell had been trying to solve the mystery of her origins.

You see, Nell was put on a ship in 1913 from London to Maryborough, Australia, where the portmaster, Hugh, finds her and takes her home to his childless wife. Nell becomes their beloved daughter, but on the eve of Nell’s 18th birthday, Hugh decides it’s time to tell Nell exactly how she came to live with them. This is a shock to her system, leading Nell to distance herself from the family she thought was hers. When Hugh dies, he sends her a suitcase filled with clues to her past. Nell jets off to Cornwall, trying to piece together why she was abandoned on that ship in 1913. She plans on moving to Cornwall as soon as she can wrap up her life in Australia, but then the unexpected happens: Nell’s daughter Leslie brings Cassandra to her and abandons her to Nell’s care. Nell decides to raise her granddaughter at the expense of discovering who she is.

Upon her death, Cassandra picks up Nell’s search, going to London and Cornwall with Nell’s journal to figure out who Nell was.

Morton flashes between several different time periods, piecing out information to the mysterious reason Nell was on that ship. Interspersed with fairy tales that speak to the theme of identity, this story circles over a hundred year time period, giving hints as the story progresses as to the reason for Nell’s kidnapping.

Morton plays with the mystical in all of her novels and the idea of hereditary memory. Cassandra and Nell both have flashbacks (not so many as it becomes unbelievable) that are not their own memories, helping them to gain insight into Nell’s origins. There’s always a feeling of knowing a place in Morton’s novels, and both Nell and Cassandra feel the familiarity of home in Cornwall, even though Cassandra has never been there and Nell barely remembers the place.

Overall, I liked The Forgotten Garden. Is it one of Morton’s best? No, that honor belongs to The Lake House, but it was an enthralling read. And Morton’s descriptions of places and events are truly the magical part of her writing. Plus, I love trying to see if I can figure out the mystery before the main character, in this case Cassandra, does.

If you like a mystery with beautiful descriptions and detailed plotting, then Kate Morton’s books are for you! I suggest them to all of the reader friends!

Until next time, enjoy your mystical-ancestral-memory reading! (That’s a mouthful!)

Ta-ta, my readers,



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