Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Aussie Author Challenge - Review No 3 - The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton

 Hello there. This is my Review No 3 for the Aussie Author Challenge 

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is a young Australian writer who lives in the Brisbane hinterland. She has been a fan of fairy stories since her childhood and has used this love of fantasy in this big, fat, delicious novel. The book, a work of historical fiction, is peppered with a wonderful set of characters and places where the reader feels part of the unravelling mystery.

The story is full of tragedy, secrets and discovery. There are three story lines happening, ranging from the present to early 20th century Victorian times, and all are tied together to create a suspenseful story of a family over several generations. The transitions between these periods create great tension, for example, the heat and frangipanis of the Brisbane setting is such a strong, marked, contrast to chilly Victorian England.

Morton uses wonderful descriptions, especially of the places she grew up in. As one who has experienced many a sub-tropical summer in Brisbane, her imagery captures the heat:

‘It was one of those desperate Antipodean spells where the days seem strung together with no gaps between. Fans do little else but move the hot air around, cicadas threaten to deafen, to breathe is to exert, and there is nothing for it but to lie on one's back and wait for January and February to pass...’ (Exactly, but now we have air conditioning!)

While some of the twists in the tale aren’t too difficult to predict, half the fun is finding out if you’re right and the other half is seeing which unanticipated twists Morton will throw in.

At the centre of the tale is Nell. Nell is secure in her identity and knows what she wants in life. Everything changes though, when on her 21st birthday her father reveals he is not her real father, her family is not her real family and she was, in fact, found on the Maryborough Wharf at the age of four. Her true origin and heritage are unknown. This news devastates Nell, as it would most readers, cracking the foundation of her life.

After Nell's death, it is her granddaughter Cassandra who must uncover the mystery of the little girl lost. This mystery takes her to Cornwall, to a cottage she has inherited from Nell. Here she discovers far more than she expects. In particular, she uncovers the long guarded secrets of the Mountrachet family, and of their ward, Eliza Makepeace. Eliza is the most fascinating character in the novel. From a young age she makes up stories to scare and fascinate those around her. Later, she puts these dark fairytales to paper, and these appear in the novel itself in the Victorian segment, making for a magical setting, mystery, and a fight between good and evil.

The characters are vivid, wounded and flawed in interesting ways that feel more Gothic than depressing – the story could be described as a combination of Daphne du Maurier and The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett puts in an appearance in the story.) The places are often as vivid as the characters, whether it’s the garden and cottage in Victorian England, Nell’s home in Australia in the now very trendy Brisbane suburb of Paddington, or a flat in London.

This is the second book of Morton's. If you can, chase down her other novel, international bestseller The Shifting Fog, every bit as breathtaking as The Forgotten Garden. I may review it next.

To read more reviews on Aussie books, click the kangaroo.


  1. first - i love the new look of your blog - it looks really funky and original.

    also loved your review - i enjoyed both of Kate's novels but this one was my favourite. and i agree she does the best descriptions.

    my sister in law is friends with Kate! they went to play group together in brisbane :)

  2. Nomes, thanks for the comment on my spring makeover. I am easily bored with blog looks, but this is the first one I've ever really liked of mine.

    I like this one better than the other too.

    Oh lovely that your sis in law knows Kate. I attended an author talk when TFG first came out and Kate seems a lovely person. I was interested in her writing journey to publication and how her first novels were trash.

    Catch you later..:)

  3. I have loved both of Kate Morton's released novels, but "The House at Riverton" (Shifting Fog) was my favourite.

    I can't wait for her third novel to be released; I already have it on pre-order.

  4. I haven't read any Kate Morton books, but this one sounds delightful!

    I really want to read more australian authors, there are so many fabulous ones!

  5. I love stories connecting different times, and Daphne du Maurier too. This is a winner for me.

    Great review!I'm enjoying hearing about these Aussie novels.

  6. Donna: Usually people like The Forgotten Garden best, but they're both fabulous. Yes, it'll be great to get novel no 3!

    agirlreads: I hope you get to read this. It is amazing, as is her other novel. There are so many great books in this world..:)

    Terry: The different time thing has to be done well, but when it is, as in this case, it's fabulous. Glad you will try to read it..:)

    Jai: Thanks!

  7. This sounds like a good book! Thanks for the heads up.

    Checked my local library here in the States for the book and we only have The Forgotten Garden so I'm checking it out!

  8. CissB: Great that you can get TFG. Hopefully you'll be able to chase up The Shifting Fog..:)

  9. Hi - returning your visit - thanks so much for stopping by.

    Great review. I had to laugh at the "now we have air conditioning"...Oh, I wish!

    I'll be checking out this and Morton's last book - thanks.

    Will be back anon - when I have shaken off the flu!

  10. Admonishing me for my overgrown weeds, my cheeky neighbors tell me I should get this book.

  11. Hi Rachel and Nick: Great book. Hope you get to read it..:)

  12. Uh oh, I had a senior moment and forgot to notify you that I had something for you on my blog. Check out 9/26/10 to find your prize.

  13. 3 story lines? That takes a lot of skill to pull off :)

  14. Pamela Jo, thank you..:)

    Jude: But she does it so well..:)

  15. To do three storylines well is quite an acheivement. Your new look is appealing and fun, Roland

  16. Hi,

    New look blog - it's sort of got a frilly romantic boudoir feel to it. ;)

    This sounds like a lovely book, shall look out for it!


  17. Roland and Francine: Thanks for your positive comments re my makeover. I'm a fun type of gal, Roland.

    This is a great book. Not everyone can do three storylines well.

    Yeah, Francine, it's my ode to Wordsworth and the jocund company of spring (as it is Down Under.) Sadly you can't get spring flowers without some twee, thus the bows, but hey, I like it..:)


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