Morton, Kate. The Forgotten Garden: A Novel. New York: Washington Square Press, 2009. 560p ISBN 1416550542. $15.95
A young girl is adopted by a dock master after being abandoned on a ship bound for Australia in 1913. On her twenty-first birthday the same young woman learns she is not who she thoughts she was. Armed with a small suitcase containing a book of fairy tales written by a woman she remembers as The Authoress, Nell leaves her adopted family and embarks on an odyssey to discover her true identity. Upon Nell’s death, her granddaughter Cassandra discovers she has inherited a cottage in Cornwall she never knew existed. Cass sets off to England to finish Nell’s quest and solve the mystery of her family tree.
Morton skillfully weaves the story of three women separated by generations, leaving the reader on the edge of his/her seat trying to solve the mystery of who this four year old girl was that was abandoned on a ship, and why was she left behind. Morton’s novel combines Victorian sensibility, gothic intrigue, fairytales, and romance. For fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, there is a cameo by the author and more than a passing similarity to the tale.
At times the plot stumbles with too many extraneous details and unnecessary hints at possible incestuous relationships. The male characters are not as well crafted as the women, and the number of characters can be difficult to keep track of at times. The similarities to The Secret Garden left this reader wanting more originality. Morton’s second novel is an engrossing read that keeps the audience on a merry chase thinking they have discovered the answers but in fact they have not. Rating: 8.5/10