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A few years ago, I read Kate Morton's The House at Riverton, a a style of book I'd normally never go anywhere near. It's pitched as more of a period drama aimed at women than the modern thriller or detective novel I usually harbour favour with. However, I loved it, and found it a book I could lose myself in, a mystery and intrigue surrounding the tale of sisters that one woman is endeavouring to unravel many years later.
In a much similar vein, Morton's The Forgotten Garden sees a young Australian woman, Cassandra, try to unravel the mystery her grandmother Nell has left her, the secret of her past from a young child to the old woman recently passed away. This is the crux of the story, and it takes Cassandra from Australia all the way to the coast of Cornwall and an estate with a curiously hidden garden, through a mystery of high society families, land owners, and the mysterious Authoress.
But we don't genuinely find out the crux of the matter for a while. The opening chapter starts off with intrigue right away, as we see a young girl on a boat, waiting for this Authoress who has told her to stay put and will be right back. However, the boat leaves and there's no sign of the Authoress. We soon learn, through Kate Morton's recognisable style of telling multiple stories decades apart by flitting from one to another, that this little girl is Nell, who is told on her 21st birthday by her father that they found her on the docks and have raised her as their own. Naturally, she is curious about her past, and now distrustful of anyone, having lived a lie for so many years.
As the tale progresses, Morton magically weaves bits of the truth into the exploration, firstly of an ageing Nell in the 1970s, then to her grandaughter Cassandra 30 years on following Nell's death, but perhaps more intiguingly, the tale set just before the First World War about Eliza Makepeace, the Authoress, and her friendship with her newly discovered family, how she had to brave squalour and abuse in the murky streets of a horrible before being found. Morton weaves a fantastic tale full of intrinsically described characters, and you get a good feel for all of them, even those who only appear briefly, such is her characterisation ability.
The mystery deepens from all angles. As we find out more from the back story of Eliza, we also then get snippets to add onto this by seeing what Cassandra finds out nearly a Century later, as well as the less involved element of Nell in the 70s. It's quite curious that these 70s chapters are less frequent, as Nell is the lynchpin of the whole tale, the reason the story is in existence, and the focal point of the mystery, as it's about her childhood and ultimately where she comes from. However, Morton is very clever with this, as she makes sure that these bits are fewer and far between, as it is Nell's memory that becomes quite a key aspect towards the end, and up until then she is forever in the book as the other two threads focus largely on elements to do with her anyway. She is the piece of the puzzle that holds the other two together, and I marvelled at the construction of it.
A couple of times I felt that Morton had almost lost me, and it's certainly not the sort of book you can flick through and read by skimming. You really have to concentrate on this, as it's very detailed and you can get bogged down due to the heavy amounts of detail involved. A benefit of the detail is that you definitely get an engrained feel for each and every character, scene and event. The negative though is that there is so much information that to keep it all in your head is nigh on impossible, and confusion set in more than once for me.
However, before long it all rights itself as you become more familiar with some of the permanent and central characters, and all this means is that it's hard going at times as opposed to a lingering feeling of being lost. I found myself picking the book up every chance I got, and although it took me a long time to get through the several hundred pages of heavy detail and powerful story, it was worth every second of it. While I wouldn't say it was better than The House at Riverton, I definitely felt this was a tale I was more interested in at teh fundamental level. The tale was more about the mystery, intrigue, secrets and had a bit of a thriller aspect to it a couple of times; whereas Riverton was more about the characters and their emotions. As such, I'd recommend this whether you're male or female, although the latter are likely to be the majority of the reading population here.
So, a big thumbs up. Although it lost me a couple of times, it's still excellent, and I look forward to reading The Distant Hours, published last year. It's certainly worth reading the first two, although you should allow yourself some free time, peace and quiet, a suitable room for reading, and a sliver of sunlight peeking through. Set the scene and take your time: she does.
A beautiful, fluid novel from Kate Morton.
A young girl is found, alone, on a ship to Australia in early 1900s with no memory of who she is. What follows is a moving and intricate passage through the decades as she, and in turn her Grand-daughter, unravel the story of their heritage.
Seamlessly shifting from decade to decade, the effortlessly descriptive language carefully differentiates the eras - rigid Victorians to laidback modern day - that are woven beautifully together. The 2 main locations (Brisbane and Cornwall) are characters in themselves and the garden of the title provides a wonderful connection between the eras and the characters.
One of Morton's real talents is writing endearing, likeable but gutsy and real characters and her depiction of 'falling in love' sweeps the reader away as if he/she were falling themself.
One of my reading highlights of the year so far. I highly recommend.
This is a beautiful story of family bonds, a little romance and a mystery.
Cassandra thought her Grandma Nell had always been the same; quiet, sometimes stern, loving but liked keeping herself to herself.
However Nell had once been the life and soul of every party and deeply in love with a local man.
So what had changed?
On Nell's 21st birthday a family secret is unleashed on her, making her realise that she never was this Nell who lived in Brisbane with her Ma, Pa and four sisters.
She gradually detached herself from this life and began trying to solve the mystery the secret left her, a mystery she passed onto her granddaughter, which would take her to the other side of the world.
I absolutely love this book. Even the title 'The Forgotten Garden' and the front cover (by Loupe Images) of an old gateway leading into the garden draws you in.
The relationship between Nell and her granddaughter is very touching, although I felt sorry for Cassandra when she discovered that the woman she thought she had no secrets with had had a whole other life that she hadn't told her about. Even so, I like the way the younger woman was so able to understand how her grandmother would have felt; when Dot has told her how Nell was found she says:
' "She must have felt so alone."
"Too right," said Dot, "All that way by herself. Weeks and weeks on that big ship, winding up on an empty dock."
"And all the time after." '
None of Nell's sisters understand what she means, even Cassandra herself isn't sure, but that is just how Nell did feel.
Another thing I like about this book is the way it jumps between pre-war 1900s to the 1930s, 1970s, 2005 and Eliza Makepeace's fairytales. This way of writing holds the interest of the reader and keeps them one step ahead of the characters.
Kate Morton is very good at coming up with names that reflect the personality of the characters; Eliza Makepeace is one of my favourite names in the book as it really does sound like the name of a fairytale authoress. Her brother, Sammy, also suites him name, and their father is not made to sound any less masculine by his surname when it is matched with the name Jonathan. Nell particularly suites her name, which gives the impression that with Hugh and Lil, who gave her that name, was where she was meant to be. Also the name Leslie conjures up an image similar to that described of Nell's daughter.
The way the book was written between the points of view of Eliza, Nell and Cassandra heightened the feeling of unity between the women of the family.
Through the book we find Nell as a stern, independent woman, but we get to see her as vulnerable when she is searching for her parents.
I found this book for £7.99 which I was definitely willing to pay for it, but it can probably be found cheaper. The book is 645 pages long.
As a 'The House at Riverton' fan, I couldn't help myself when this turned up in the Boxing Day Book Sale.
Starring Nell Andrews, the book begins on her 21st birthday. She's feeling happy, until her father admits that he and her mother aren't her real parents. Not such a huge issue, you might think...until they admit that they found her, and don't know how she can track down her parents.
He tells Nell that he found her, abandoned on a boat headed to Australia. She won't talk, and won't tell anyone her name, so he felt no other option then to take her back home to his wife, and ask her what to do. He and his wife had been trying for a baby, and so having a child turn up was a dream come true. So, they kept her, and bought her up as their own.
Nell's life has been turned upside down. Instead of being thankful to her 'parents', and getting on with her life, she suddenly doesn't know who she is. Desperate to know why her real parents didn't want her, she sets out on a journey to discover who she is, and why she was abandoned.
The book has a strange style, with different sections and times in no particular order, which can be very confusing. They come together in a brilliant climax, however, and I really respect Morton for her ability to keep you intrigued and dying to know what will happen.
There are twists and turns throughout, and you'll feel like a detective unearthing clues and making links. It's a gripping book that I just couldn't put down, but I didn't want to finish it either! It's fascinating, and you'll be sucked in more then you thought possible. A beautifully written book.
i have just finished reading this book, having previously read "The House At Riverton". It was an enjoyable easy read. The story was set in 3 different eras ( early 1900's, 1970's and 2005) focusing on the interconnected lives of 3 women and the mystery surrounded the parentage of the woman ( Nell) who arrived a young girl alone in Australia after a long sea journey and her constant search for the truth of how she got there and where she came from. I love a book that is set like this with interwoven lives through the ages with just the hint of a mystery that isn't wholly solved till the very end of the story, even though it is easy to guess the truth that comes out at the end. I also have to mention I love the excerpts from the fairytales throughout the book. it really helped to set the scene for the magical garden and empathise with the Authoress character. I would recommend this to anyone who loves to cuddle up with a good easy to read book on a cold winters day.
The Forgotten Garden is Morton's second book, a follow-up to The House At Riverton which was highly successful as winner of Richard and Judy's summer read a couple of years ago. The House At Riverton is also one of my favourite books of all time.
The Forgotten Garden is set at four different times with four different perspectives.
When Cassandra's grandmother Nell dies she is drawn into a mystery about Nell's parentage as well as how she came to be abandoned at an Australian port as a small child. Cassandra, a woman with her own tragic past ends up travelling to Cornwall in order to unravel the mystery which involves high society, family scandal, poverty and children's literature.
To my mind, Morton is a master storyteller. The book is well thought-out and paced and never confusing despite the constant time shifting. The pieces of the story come together wonderfully and the overall novel is superbly crafted.
The story is punctuated with the occasional chapter which takes the form of a children's fairytale/fable apparently written by one of the protagonists. This is a nice idea and not as gimmicky as it sounds because the stories often have relevance to the main plot.
The different strands of the overall story come together expertly making the different revelations, twists and turns feasible.
The main characters are really well stretched considering that the novel is plot driven.
Needless to say I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it. The only reason that it has 4 stars rather than 5 is that I didn't think it was quite as exceptional as The House At Riverton, otherwise I would still highly recommend it and can't wait to see what Morton comes up with next.
1913 - Maryborough Wharf, Australia
A four year old girl is discovered abandoned after a voyage from England. She doesn't know her name or remember anything from her journey, only that a woman she calls the Authoress was supposed to look after her - but the authoress is no where to be seen.
1975 - Cornwall, England
The four year old girl is now an old lady and determined to find out what happened to her all those years ago. She decides to travel from Brisbane to Cornwall to discover her real family in an estate called Blackhurst Manor owned by the Mountrachet family.
2005 - Brisbane, Australia & Cornwall, England
Nell has passed away but her mystery lives on as her only granddaughter, Cassandra receives a surprise inheritance in the form of mystery of Nell's abandonment at the Wharf in Australia all those years ago. Cassandra's hunt also leads her to the Mountrachet family in Cornwall, but its to a long ago abandoned cottage and its forgotten garden. Will Cassandra uncover the truth about Nell's life that Nell couldn't quite uncover in her lifetime?
Although I thoroughly enjoyed "The House At Riverton", I didn't think I'd really enjoy any other books by the author Kate Morton, so imagine my surprise when I started reading this one! Not only did I enjoy it, but I found it a better read!
As I mentioned in my review of "The House of Riverton", the main difficulty of this book was how slow I found it to get into the book. Thankfully, in this one, I was immediately drawn in to the story and it was instantly intriguing. Like the summary suggests, the story is told from different times and in different countries, and during this, it is also told from different points of view. In 1913 and before, a lot of the story is told from the point of view of Eliza Makepeace, or as she is known to the little abandoned girl, "The Authoress". I found this a particularly fascinating part of the book, as I enjoyed the descriptions and peek at life in London slums during the 19th Century. This part of the book conjured up lots of really vivid images and created a fascinating background for Eliza to grow up in. Not only this, Eliza's story was sad and heart warming, and I thought that her character was well drawn.
In fact, all of the characters were well drawn. In providing different time lines and different characters perspectives, Morton stops this book from ever being described as boring or slow going. I loved the constant change of pace that occurred due to this, but not only that, the stories of all the characters interlinked. The story from Cornwall before 1913 is sometimes followed by the more modern story of Cassandra, Nell's granddaughter in 2005. Even though the two women are many years apart, Cassandra's search for the truth in travelling to Cornwall all links in with Eliza's story, and it was often the case that something Cassandra found out in 2005 directly linked up to something that was explained in say, 1910 told from Eliza's point of view. The same happened when some of the chapters focussed on Nell's search in 1976. Looking back on it, I think Nell's story in 1976 didn't appear as frequently as Cassandra's or Eliza's but it didn't diminish the importance of her search. Obviously, Nell is the central character to the whole story; she is the little girl who was left abandoned on the Wharf in Australia in 1913 and she is the woman desperately trying to piece together the puzzle of her past. The whole flow between sections felt seamless, well paced and extremely absorbing.
Nell as a character was an interesting one. For the most part, the readers perception of Nell is taken from her granddaughter Cassandra's view of her. Although Cassandra clearly loved and adores her grandmother, she is not closed off to Nell's many faults; she is a stubborn and moody old woman, someone who as deliberately cut herself off from human contact and who would happily live with her own company. Despite her obvious flaws, Nell is a character that I warmed to immediately, I empathised with her idea of her own identity being completely changed, and I (probably for sentimental reasons of the nan-granddaughter relationship that I had with my nan) just loved the quiet all-encompassing love that Cassandra and Nell had for each other. There was nothing showy in the way in which their relationship was described, it was so subtle and well written that it was just very apparent that the women were extremely close.
The mystery itself presented a much more intriguing prospect than The House At Riverton. Although I enjoyed the previous book, the mystery wasn't really one that gripped you from the start and made you read hungrily to the end. It was more of a slow unravelling. In the same way, this story was a slow unravelling of the truth behind Nell's abandonment, but the facts that presented themselves were much more compelling. In this book, there are more background characters to take in to consideration when working out the truth and the general idea of Nell's abandonment was just more juicy a mystery than the one in the last book. However, in the same way that it becomes easy to guess the outcome of the women in "The House AT Riverton", this books secrets are also apparent before the actual facts are spilled, although I lost none of the enjoyment because of it.
Overall, this is an excellent follow up to "The House At Riverton." Suffice to say, if you enjoy the authors style of writing and you enjoyed the themes that were explored within the Riverton book, I'd say it would be a safe bet that you would be blown away by this one. It certainly surpassed my expectations, combining the intertwining aspects of family life through the ages with well drawn characters and an old fashioned mystery. Superb.
I bought this book, and to be honest, was a little sceptical as to if i would read it! I passed on to my mum first who read it within 3 days!! I then did not pick it up until a few months after that.
As soon as i started to read the book, i was enthralled. The images of Nell that you are struck with were fantastic. Kate Morton really excelled herself with this novel.
The story is not so simple as to give the twist away, but the essence is of an older lady (Nell) who lives in Australia. Nell was found abandoned in Australia after travelling from England by a family that took her in and raised her. Years later, her granddaughter (Cassandra) comes to live with her at a young age, as her mother leaves her with her one day. Nell and Cassandra live together until the death of the Nell, and Cassandra gains an inheritance from Nell. The inheritance is a cottage in England, of which Cassandra goes to and the secrets of what happened to Nell and her family emerge.
The book is quite thick and i did not think that i would get through it as quickly as i did. I even found myself cooking and reading the book at the same time! (Trying to cook sausages in a frying pan and holding a book at the same time is no easy task!)
I could not put this book down, and as i read it in bed, my eyes would get that tired that i couldn't put it down. I just needed to get to the other chapter!
I have not read any of Kate Morton' novels before, so she was a completely new writer to me, but i have to say she is fantastic!
Give this one a go, it has a fantastic twist to it, that you wouldn't have thought of and the writing is outstanding.
Recently I ran out of books to read, so as I often do when my own bookshelves fail me, I head to my mums house and raid her shelves for something interesting . I came home with a bagful of books, including this one .
This is Kate Morton's second novel, her first being The House at Riverton. I haven't read that, but it seemed to get some good praise, including being mentioned by Richard and Judy .
The Forgotten Garden works along three seperate personal timelines :
In 1913, a young girl is found alone on the docks after a gruelling voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember is that a woman called the Authoress was supposed to be looking after her, but the Authoress has dissapeared without a trace. She is clutching a suitcase.
Later, in 1975, the girl, now an old lady named Nell, is given the suitcase after the death of her father . Its contents lead her to a beautiful cornish estate, Blackhurst Manor, once owned by a noble family. But what ties does she have with this family, and can she find herself ?
In 2005 ,Nells grandaughter is surprised to learn she's been left a cottage in the grounds of a cornish estate . But why ? Her grandmother seemed to think she's understand the importance, but can she get anyone to tel her the secrets of the house and the family that once lived there.
I found the book very enjoyable, the way the book subtly shifted between characters, and changed your perception of the same character several times . For example, the character of Rose Mountrachet inititially tugged on my heartstrings, then later I despised her .
Some of the characters went very deep right at the start - for example, Eliza was a very strong character - imaginative, tomboyish, defiant of convention. Other characters started off very shallow - such as Cassandra, and gradually revealed more of themselves as the story evolved .
Theres some great description here - I could almost picture the mists swirling through the streets of early 20th century London, the sea crashing against the Cornish coastline . I could almost hear the accent of an old sailor as he talked about 'Piskies'. The author also demonstrates clear local knowledge of Cornwall, with mention for example of typically Cornish dishes
such as Morgy broth .
Part of the joy of the story is that it is scattered with some sweet little childrens tales (in the book , they're written by one of the characters) which present a nice little break from unravelling the mystery, while simultaneously providing hidden clues .
I did feel some chapters of the book could have been left out - for instance, at one point she seems to be taking the character of Uncle Linus in a new and sinister direction . Maybe this is an intentional false lead, but either way I feel certain chapters added nothing .
With that said, I enjoyed the book . The plot was sufficiently twisty and turny to have me changing my minds every few minutes about how it would all unfold , it had some brilliant description, and characters I could really get behind .
I borrowed my copy from my mum , but the jacket price is 7.99 . I;m sure amazon and such like will also stock it, so shop around for a bargain. Its definately a great read , and I'd recommend it .
Kate Morton returns this summer with her second book; The Forgotten Garden. Morton became a bestseller last year when The House at Riverton won the Richard and Judy Summer Read aswell as other awards. This new book follows the similar style that her previous book had with a secret continuing throughout the story.
This book is split into 3 time periods.
1913 where a little girl is found abandoned at a port in Australia after being on a boat from England. She can only remember a woman called the Authoress, and the Authoress had promised to look after her but she had vanished.
1975, An old Lady, Nell, travels to Cornwall to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall and a big estate called Blackhurst Manor, previously owned by the Mountrachet family.
2005, on Nell's death her granddaughter Cassandra has a surprise on her inheritance, (Cliff Cottage on the grounds of the Manor). It is notorious with the locals for the secrets it holds. It is the forgotten garden, abandoned for years where Cassandra will uncover the truth about the family and why the young Nell was abandoned all those decades before.
The Forgotten Garden was a book I did enjoy. I found the way Morton was able to create such memorable characters was something special. I was able to really feel sorry for the characters and desperately wanted to help, but as soon as the book progresses, sympathy leaves and then you resent a characters, and vice versa. Clever stuff from a really good author.
The writing style is similar to the House at Riverton as is the general layout. I found the plot a little bit weaker than the House at Riverton and I wasn't completely hooked like i was but I still found the book a really good read. The Forgotten Garden is very descriptive. There is great imagery in her description of the Manor house, the garden and all aspects that the reader encounters.
Again Morton manages to create early 20th century life in a spell binding way. The way she creates dirty London streets is really good and you can really feel the danger and air of suspense in the book.
Like the House at Riverton, this book has a lot of characters which may become confusing if you haven't been concentrating. The book does flit about between time periods and some people are not keen on this style.
The book i clearly about family and secrets, I think if anyone is really into Family history and genealogy then they will like this book. I enjoy family history and that was one aspect of the book i really liked.
The book may have been a little hard to get into at first but after a few chapters I became engrossed in the story. I am sure a few chapters could have been deleted, a bit of unnecessary description here and there, but HEY! I'm nitpicking her.
One thing I really liked about Morton is that in her acknowledgment page she thanked the Children's writers for opening a world of incomparable terror, joy and excitement. A very worthwhile thank you and without thoser writers many of today's authors would not be here.
If you fell in love with The House at Riverton you need to read this. If you are a Morton virgin you should really lose it soon! But don't expect this book to reach the heights of Riverton, it so nearly does, but the book is still a wonderful read.
Bound to be one of the books of the summer!
amazon has the book for £3.86
and WHSmith has the book on 3 for 2 special offer at the moment.
The book is 644pages long.