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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Book Review #12 - The forgotten garden

  • Title: The forgotten garden
    Author: Kate Morton
    Publisher: Pan - 29 May 2008
    ISBN: 978-0330449601
    Print length: 645 pages

First of all, this is the 3rd book from Kate Morton I'm reading. However I haven't read them in their right order of publication. I wrote previous posts about The Distant Hours and The House at Riverton
  • Synopsis

    It is set in different times:

    1900: Eliza is brought to a manor in Cornwall after her mother and brother dies. Here she meets Rose and as children they are best friends.
    1913: A young girl is brought to the shores of Australia in the war. She has no family, no name and no belongings apart from a white suitcase filled with clothes, a bunny and a book of fairytales. She is lost and vulnerable until a man down by the harbour takes her in ans calls her Nell.
    1930: On the eve of Nell's wedding her father tells her she's not his, which changes her life forever. The wedding is called off and the girl disappears and her sisters hear nothing of her for years.
    1975: Nell, as an old lady, goes to England to try and find out her past.
    2010: Cassandra's grandmother Nell dies and she inherits a house in Cornwall. She decides to travel to England to try and find out about it.
    My thoughts

    This is once again a fantastic read!!! Kate Morton's writing is very elaborate. You can seriously a new word or two per page!!!!
    The story in itself is quite elaborate as it's set in 4 major timelines for which Kate Morton adapts her style.
    As in the 2 previous books I read, the themes are grand houses, big family names, secrets and mystery deaths!!! I mean... What's not to like??? 
    Her strong point I think is to explain and expose mother-daughter relationships. Usually dysfunctionnal, but never repetitive, all family bonds are always very elaborate. From one book to another.

    To summarize the book, I will start with present time and go backwards, just stating facts and will wrote in tiny letters as it is most likely to contain spoilers!!

    2010: Cassandra, living in Australia, inherits Nell's house in Cornwall and her secret: she's not her great grand parents biological child. 
    Cassandra was close to Nell, her own mother having "abandoned her" with her, in 1975, when she was little. 
    Cassandra, having lost her husband and child in a car accident recently, decides to investigates the house and this past. 
    All she has is her grand-mother's childhood white suitcase containing a book of fairy tales written by Eliza Makepeace and her grand mother notes about her travels over there when she herself tried to find her past. 
    In England, she meets with several people in London and in Cornwall who know about Eliza Makepeace, ie she's a famous children book writer but disappeared in 1913 (Nathaniel Walker is the guy who illustrates her stories).

    1975: Nell, after purchasing a house in Cornwall, where Eliza Makepeace used to live, returns to Australia with the strong will to come back and live in it. But when she arrives in Australia, her daughter "drops" Cassandra off and never returns. Nell gives up her hopes of finding her true identity and stays to bring up Cassandra.

    1930: Nell learns from her father that she is not his. He tells her that he found her on the boat that came from England. She was alone, only 4 years old and no one to fetch her so he decided to take her in and adopt her with his wife. Once someone from England sent them a letter asking if they knew about a lost child whereabouts but he burnt the letter. Nell, then remembers that she came on a big boat, she was with a woman that she called "The Authoress". She hid the girl on the boat and told her not to move, but the Authoress never came back. She found food through other children she met on the boat.

    1900-1913: Big Family story, the Mountrachet:
    The rebellious daughter Giorgina left the big house and was involved with a fisherman, Makepeace. She fell pregnant of twins, a boy Sammy and a girl Eliza. The dad died unexpectedly but it turned out that it was Giorgina's brother who hired someone to track her sister down and gave his accord for the early demise of her lover. When Giorgina died, Sammy and Eliza were warned to keep for themselves and look out for the devil - presumably the guy who killed their dad. Sammy died in a stupid accident. Eliza got picked up in 1900 by the "devil" without her realising it (it was either that or social services). 
    She went to live in the big mansion, being the descendance of the Mountrachet. 
    The weird Uncle married a maid and had a daughter Rose. Rose and Eliza are about the same age. Rose is very fragile. Her mother is extremely controling and hates Eliza! Eliza and Rose grow closer. Eliza has a talent for inventing fairy tales stories.
    At 18, Rose and her mother travel to the states to find her a husband. They met with Nathaniel Walker - who will later become a famous portrait painter/sketcher. They marry and try for babies. Without success. It turns out that Rose is infertile, after a doctor decided to X-ray her belly for 90 minutes (in 189...) after having swallowed a toy. It was a first for this technology but consequences were unknown, when in fact the X-rays fried her developping ovaries.
    The whole book is written around this secret:
    While the reader is made to believe that in 1909, Rose's baby was really Mary's baby (an unwed maid) and that Eliza helped Mary through the pregnancy and the secrets.
    The real arrangement was that Nathaniel and Eliza actually tried for a baby FOR Rose and when Eliza gave birth, she willingly gave up the baby for Rose and Nathaniel. Mary being aware of it, was paid for her silence.
    1913: Rose couldn't face Eliza anymore, probably jaelousy, she decided to move to New York with baby Ivory and Nathaniel. But before the move, they had to go visit someone, they died in the train crash, the baby having stayed at home after suffering a cold.
    Eliza didn't know about it, she herself had planned to move to Australia (Mary's brother was living there and loving it)
    After finally having heard the news of the accident and while everyone was at the funeral (same day she was supposed to travel to London then Australia), Eliza meets with Ivory and in an instant decides to take her with her.
    They go to London, Eliza puts her on the boat and tells her not to move she will be back as soon as possible.
    Eliza was actually going to get back to the house where she used to live with her mum and brother where she hid a very expensive Mountrachet brooch. But when she arrived there, the lady called "the devil" and he came to pick her up! He drugged her and put her in his carriage. When Eliza came to her senses, she jumped out of teh carriage, hoping to bounce off and go back to the boat on time for departure. In the process, she actually killed herself!!!
    That's why nobody ever saw her again, she was buried in her garden that she treasured!!!
    So, in conclusion, Nell is Ivory and her parents were really Eliza and Nathaniel!

    My ratings

    **** - Only missing 1 * because I had guessed the ending pretty early on!

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book. I think the plot reflected life...it takes along time to make sense of our past, and sometimes we die without knowing. Along the way, we form relationships and misshapen theories about what where our life came from and what it means.

    There was only one thing that I felt could have been expounded more, and that was the nature of the relationship between Eliza and Nathaniel. They seemed as if they became good friends, found in each other a soul mate, and were intimate. I find it difficult to believe that they stayed apart for four years afterwards, even thought they were neighbors and each were unhappy and empty. At the very least, I feel as if Kate should have alluded to the difficulties they must have had not thinking about each other and being with each other.

    However, I really liked that Kate didn't turn it into an adulterous relationship where both parties feel as if their life is tragically incomplete without each other. Instead, Kate wisely let us know that Nathaniel and Eliza felt incomplete because of other things in their lives--Nathaniel couldn't make a break with his mother in law, and Eliza could not forgive herself for giving up her child.

    Also, I really thought that Linus was going to play into the plot more. Kate always seemed on the verge of revealing that he has incestuous relations with his sister, niece, or daughter...but that never came up, and we did not even really get a glimpse into his reaction on the death of Eliza or the disappearance of Ivory.

    And one more thing--does anybody know if Cassandra ever figured out that Nathaniel was Nell's father?


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