The Forgotten Garden is a family saga, a captivating tale of three generations of women, each of whom was abandoned. First comes Nell, found alone at age 4, on a wharf in Australia, and adopted by the harbor master. Eliza, orphaned in London by the murder of her mother, is the center link. Finally there is Cassandra, deposited with her grandmother by a mother who never returned for her. Author Morton has fashioned her story around a pervasive mystery: who is Nell, who were her parents, and why was she sent by herself on a voyage from London to Australia? In a rich layer cake of a plot, the circumstances of their lives are made known, in their own times and places, in bits and pieces that snap together as the narrative progresses.
What I liked:
Some might find Morton’s prose overblown, but I enjoyed her evocative images, her poetic descriptions, and her great ability to create tone and atmosphere. This is a fanciful story, yet real. There are no ghosts here, but the traces of the past impinge constantly. Surprisingly, her English settings are considerably more vivid than her native Australian ones.
Morton’s female characters are strong, colorful, and think for themselves. Most are personably human, but Adeline, as stepmother, could not be more deliciously manipulative or cold. Male characters are fairly ancillary, with the exception of Mansell, whose role is small but pivotal.
This book is highly symbolic. From the names (Cassandra, Mansell, Rose, Nell, Makepeace, Swindell), to the metaphors (the apple tree, the walled garden, the inheritance, the multiple journeys, the three women), to the quest itself, The Forgotten Garden harks back to the timeless imagery of folklore and fairy tales.
What I disliked:
Cassandra’s romance: too pat and predictable.
The length: A bit more editing is needed to cut down on replication of information.
The Forgotten Novel is an easy novel to get lost in, wonderful reading for those who enjoy folklore, family sagas, and subtle romantic drama. Recommended for adults and teens.