Cover Snapshot of Read Books

Sara's bookshelf: read

Crazy Little Thing
A Kiss at Midnight
The Disenchanted Widow
Hollywood Wives - The New Generation
There Goes the Bride
Table for Five
Do Not Disturb
The Husband's Secret
The Ugly Duchess
Help for the Haunted
The Power Trip
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Summer At Willow Lake
Every Crooked Nanny
The Mystery Woman
The Woodcutter
How to Be an American Housewife

Sara's favorite books »

Monday, April 25, 2011

Escape into The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton tells a sad and twisted almost-fairy-tale story, one that weaves between three generations from past to present. Mixed into the novel are little fairy tales which were written by an elusive author named Eliza Makepeace.

The beginning starts with a little girl, abandoned on a ship sailing toward Australia in the early 1900s. Months later the little girl and her small suitcase are found by the harbor master. The harbor master and his wife have been longing for children and he instantly adores the little girl, bringing her home to his wife. Soon, the harbor master and his wife are moving in order to present the little girl as their own in the next town. The harbor master knows that someone will be looking for the little girl, but she has become such a part of his family that he cannot giver her up. No one knows the little girls identity and she is very young, refusing to give her name.

In the present we meet Cassandra, a young lady who has been raised by her Grandmother. Upon her Grandmother’s death, Cassandra learns that her Grandmother has left her a cottage located in across the sea on the English coast. Cassandra’s Grandmother has never mentioned this other house so Cassandra feels compelled to visit to determine why her Grandmother held this secret. It is on the Cornish coast that Cassandra starts to unravel her Grandmother’s secret past and identity.

In the 1900s, Eliza lives in the slums on the Thames. Eliza is a strong-willed girl who makes up stories to comfort her brother every night. Eliza’s life is filled with hardship and suffering, and it almost seems a blessing when she is rescued from the slums by a distant relative. Soon she has a room in a beautiful old mansion, and she has the freedom to run by the sea. In her explorations, it doesn’t take long for her to discover the forgotten garden.

This story is winding and complex, and unfolds toward the end like a mystery. I knew that there would be parallels to The Secret Garden, but I was not expecting Eliza’s stories to be like those of the Brother’s Grimm and like those we all know through Disney, almost too similar in that they didn’t feel original. And, I had wanted the writing to be more rich and luminous. The writing style is simple and easy which was unexpectedly disappointing. And, I had figured out the mystery long before the end…
Still, I can see how this would lead to interesting book club discussions:
  • There are three storylines that follow three different women, what are their similarities/how do they differ?
  • Compare The Forgotten Garden to The Secret Garden
  • How similar are the Eliza stories to the Grimm fairytales?
  •  Nell’s choices on her 21st birthday impacted the rest of her life; did she make the right decision? 
  •  Did you think this was a love story, a tragedy or a modern fairy tale?
The Forgotten Garden Book club: Buy flowers and place in living room and on dining table. Get out the good china (and maybe some antiques); serve quiche, tea and petit fours. Place a stack of your favorite childhood fairy tales on the coffee table. One idea: Start the book club by reading a short fairy tale.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, is 549 trade paperback pages.




  1. Our comparison of The Forgotten Garden to The Secret Garden was interesting... we were not big fans of Morton having Burnett make a cameo in her book!

    I had also figured out the mystery early, which was a little disappointing. Still, you are correct, we did have a lot of good discussion about many aspects of the book, especially the characters!

  2. I just finished Arcadia Falls a novel by Carol Goodman and I have to say that it would be a great comparison to The Forgotten Garden! Arcadia Falls follows a fairy tale and language professor as she moves to a new location, a new school. Carol Goodman has a way with words and that immediately draws the reader in. The story really parallels the Forgotten Garden. When the professor and her young daughter get to the school they become enthralled with the history of its founders. Soon they are discovering mysteries about deaths that happened decades before and unlocking secrets from the past...The fairy tales are rendered beatifully into the story and that is where the real compare and contrast would begin. It would be very interesting I think to do a full comparison between the two books!