Page count: 645 pages
Date begun: September 17th, 2011
Date finished: September 24th, 2011
In 1913, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship from England to Australia. All she has with her is a little suitcase and a beautifully illustrated book of fairy tales, and she remembers that a pretty lady called the Authoress told her to hide on the ship, but otherwise she has no recollection of who she is. In 1975, the little girl has a daughter and a grandmother of her own, but travels to Cornwall to discover the truth about her identity. In 2005, Nell's granddaughter Cassandra is devastated by the death of Nell, and surprised to discover that among the effects left to her in Nell's will is the deed to a small cottage in England. She too travels to England to figure out why the cottage is significant.
The Forgotten Garden is the story of three generations and four women - Nell, her granddaughter Cassandra, and Eliza Makepeace, the mysterious Authoress and her beautiful cousin Rose Mountrachet. The points of view alter between Eliza, Nell and Cassandra, whilst the reader gets to know Rose through her letters, diary entries and through Eliza's eyes. Who is Nell really? Why was she abandoned on the ship to Australia? What was the significance of the book of fairy tales? What did Nell discover in England in 1975? Why did she leave the cottage in Cornwall to Cassandra?
Like in The House at Riverton, Morton deftly describes the lives of women spanning nearly a century and lives plagued with mysteries and secrets and melodramatic events. I still think this is the better book, though, and the alternating points of view as well as the interconnected time lines, interspersed with Eliza's fairy tales (I would give a lot to get a hold of a copy of the whole fairy tale collection, it's clearly marvellous), letters, diary entries and the like, really add to the story and kept me gripped. Had not my massive work load kept me from reading constantly, I suspect I would have finished the book in about two days. I'm very much looking forward to checking out Morton's next novel, The Distant Hours, when it's published in paperback.