As soon as I finished reading it, I knew it would be difficult to write a review of The Forgotten Garden without spoilers. But I've decided----no spoilers. I don't want any of the magic lost for you when you read it. Here's a link to Kate Morton's website that has a plot summary and you can listen to Kate Morton herself (with her Aussie accent!) read chapter one of the book.
First off, (just so you're prepared) it approaches 600 pages long. The book is written in 3rd person from the perspective of several female characters from the same family spanning a period of about 100 years. The story opens in 1913 with a 4 year old girl being discovered on a wharf in Australia unaccompanied. She is "adopted" by a family that keeps her origin a secret until her 21st birthday. This information leads Nell to embark on a quest that leads her from Australia to England in search of her birth family. When Nell finally dies with her past still a secret, her granddaughter Cassandra takes up the search on her grandmother's behalf.
Initially I found the switching perspectives (from Nell to Cassandra to their ancestors) and the constant jumping from 2005 to 1907 to 1913 to 1975 kind of annoying, but eventually got used to it. Luckily, the author Kate Morton headlines each chapter with the location and the year for the benefit of the reader. The plot of the book kept me guessing right up until the very end. When I finally thought I had it all figured out, I was wrong. The parts that were written from Cassandra's perspective went a little romance novel on me a couple of times and I got worried (I am not a Harlequin kind of girl!) so thank goodness those times were brief!
What I liked most about the book was the dark, dreamy Gothic meets fairy tale tone that encompasses the entire story. One of the main characters Eliza Makepeace (A.K.A. The Authoress) is a writer of fairy tales, some of which are interspersed throughout the book. It didn't really completely strike me until the end how many of the characters were archetypes of fairy tale characters. Pay attention as you read and you'll meet some characters from Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Most notably there are several nods to author Frances Hodgson Burnett who wrote The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Ms. Burnett even makes an appearance in the book herself at a garden party in which she requests a tour of the forgotten garden featured in the book.
This book had an air of magic in it that stuck with me even when it was over. Even with the aforementioned Gothic feel and book length, it was an easy escapist read. Set aside a few lazy afternoons and enjoy The Forgotten Garden for yourself.