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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden By Kate Morton (2010)
Review by Elaine Rooker Jack

What it’s about, from the CD cover:  “A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, a maze, an aristocratic family, a love denied, a mystery – the Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, ghosts, family, and memories.”

What hooked me:  Imagine a ton of complex and variously connected characters (Dickens), the fortuitous meeting of those characters (Hardy), a spooky house with secrets (du Maurier), some creepy fairy tales (Brothers Grimm), and you’ll be close to grasping the appeal of this book. Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, makes a cameo appearance in the story, and in the afterward Morton reveals she wrote this book partly as homage to authors who turn children on to reading. Add to all that some genuinely likeable characters and a story revealed with perfect literary timing, over 100+ years of flashbacks and point-of-view shifts. The recorded version is 20 hours long, so this book kept me company in the car for weeks, including some time I spent sitting parked at my destination!

What annoyed me:  Early on there was quite a bit of whining from the “foundling” character about how she didn’t know who she really was because she was adopted.  (Adopted by a wonderful family, I might add.) I called BS on her several times and contemplated chucking it because of that.  (I didn’t because the characters wouldn’t let me, which is my “to chuck or not to chuck” test.) But I realized toward the end that she had to feel that way initially or she wouldn’t have needed to delve into her background, and if she hadn’t, there would not have been a marvelous story.

I recommend it:  For a time when you need an interesting, involving, complex yet easily-flowing book. Like on a long day of air travel with layovers and delays. Or to listen to while driving cross-country. Or on your kid’s tournament day(s). Plan to spend the time you are not reading it mentally piecing together the bits of the puzzle the author doles out to you.

Quote(s) from the book:
“If she tried hard enough she could almost remember a voice . . . but it always slipped away before she could clasp the memory to her, make it her own to command and recall.”

“She felt transported, like a character who’d been cut from the pages of one story, where rhythm and context were known, and glued rather carelessly into another.”

“Cassandra wondered at the mind’s cruel ability to toss up flecks of the past.”

“. . . silenced by admiration of the other woman’s lusty confidence.”

Books I recommend that have at least one thing in common:  
The Thirteenth Tale by Setterfield
The Used World by Kimmel
Rebecca by Du Maurier
Light Between Oceans by Stedman
Sarah’s Key by De Rosnay
Practical Magic by Hoffman (if you don’t mind reading about witches)

Books I recommend that have at least one thing in common, if you’re up for a classic:
Bleak House by Dickens
Jude the Obscure by Hardy
Wuthering Heights by Bronte

Elaine Rooker Jack is assistant editor of Today's Family.


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