For my 11th book of my 2016 reading challenge, I chose The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. It was my mom’s recommendation for my list, and she picked it for me after enjoying the audiobook version.
I was supposed to have read this in November in order to stay on track for completion of the challenge by the end of 2016, but I was in the midst of Ron Chernow’s George Washington biography when November started. The plan was to wrap up Washington: A Life by mid-November, but my reading pace is at a crawl these days with Mr. Baby being in the picture and me being back at work. I ended up setting aside the biography and picking up The Forgotten Garden at Thanksgiving break. It then took me until Christmas to read Morton’s novel, which is fairly lengthy at over 500 pages. I’m tackling my final book of the challenge, The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, here at the start of 2017. After that, I’ll finally finish the Washington bio.
The Forgotten Garden is centered around a core question: Why was 4-year-old Nell put on a ship bound for Australia from England in 1913 by herself, with no paperwork identifying her or her parentage? Many other mysterious questions revolve around this main one, and Morton, as the novel progresses, slowly reveals the answers. For most of the book, I thought Morton’s revelations were well paced and her shifts in point of view and time well plotted. The characters span 4 generations of women, and each in turn has her own secrets to reveal. My one qualm with the novel was Morton’s execution of the big reveal. She had given so many hints in the 100 pages ahead of the big revelation that it was no revelation at all. Instead, her characters come across as either blind or incompetent to the truth that is so apparent to the reader.
This slight annoyance, however, was not enough to severely dim my enjoyment of the book. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to lose oneself in a solid fictional tale.