Monday, April 20, 2015
'The Forgotten Garden' by Kate Morton
2015 Reading Challenge, Week 16 - A book with more than 500 pages.
I read each of those 500+ pages very quickly, as I wanted to know what was going to happen.
A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.
In 1913, a little girl is taken aboard a ship and told to wait quietly by a mysterious woman she knows only as the Authoress. When the lady doesn't return, the ship takes the 4-year-old with it to Australia. In 2005, the granddaughter of that little girl heads back to Cornwall to try to figure out the mystery of the family past.
I have to say, many of the characters have very melodramatic motives for their actions. As the plot itself delivers its share of melodramatic moments, maybe they're a good match. It's no wonder the heroine, Eliza, is able to make several of her dark fairy tales semi-autobiographical! The story hooked me in so I had to pick it up whenever I had a spare moment. Stories with mysteries that span more than one generation and time period always do that to me, and this one bounded back and forth like a yo-yo. We're in the early 1900s with Eliza and Rose, then we're in 1975 with Nell, and then 2005 with Cassandra. I like the feeling of time flying, and the way each thread makes us more curious about the others. I like the concept that Cassandra inherited the mess to sort out.
The theme of a long-abandoned, hidden garden surrounded by its four walls reminded me of the children's classic, 'The Secret Garden.' There's even a cameo appearance by that author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, in this novel. Apparently, as she tells the characters, she's so intrigued by the garden on this property that it gives her ideas for a story of her own. Very cool little extra.
I think my favourite of the main heroines is Eliza, with her originality and uniqueness, who ends up finding herself in a no-win situation if ever there was one! Who wouldn't be fascinated by the inner workings of an author of fairy tales? I also like Nell, with her knowledge that she herself is the mystery she's trying to solve, and Cassandra, with her natural bashfulness combined with determination.
The antagonists, Linus and Adeline Mountrachet, are memorable. Linus is a nasty character, treating those he should hold dear with the same contempt he suffered when he was young. I would think if there was really a ghost haunting the old place, it would be him, still consumed with his creepy obsession. His wife is equally easy to hate. There is no control freak like a self-seeking control freak.
Although he wasn't really a main character, I found myself pondering Nathaniel's plight, and the sacrifices he was willing to make to further his career and keep the peace. Where do you draw the line and declare enough is enough? He wanted to do the conventional thing and please his new family, yet what they were asking him to do was definitely not conventional! Although he felt every choice he made was for the good of himself and his young wife, I feel he became a puppet man whose strings were too easy to pull. I was hanging out for him to stand up to his pushy mother-in-law and tell her to go jump (and his wife, for that matter). At the end, his is one of those cases when the right thing may be the scandal causing choice.
Some of the even more minor characters are interesting storytellers who offer food for thought. There's old William Martin, who told many tales, but had an obvious gift of 'spinning straw into gold.' And Julia Bennett, the hotel owner and former fiction author, who believes that people really do belong to stock character types. 'Even the person who insists such things don't really exist is a cliche, the dour pedant who insists on his own uniqueness. We're all unique. Just never in ways we imagine.'
I'll finish with some of the quotes from Eliza, as I enjoyed my glimpse into the mind of such a prolific storyteller.
Eliza knew scrutiny was akin to stealing. 'She liked to store images in her mind to be replayed, re-voiced, re-coloured as she pleased. To weave them into wicked stories, flights of fancy that would horrify the people who'd provided unwitting inspiration.'
'The more she wrote, the louder the stories seemed to grow, swirling in her mind, pressing against her head, anxious for release. She understood the power of stories, their magical ability to refill the wounded part of people.'