Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

I had never heard of Kate Morton before a couple of months ago. Our family was out walking around our neighborhood and I stopped to check the neighbor's "little library" at the end of their driveway. Inside was a copy of The Forgotten Garden. Initially I picked it up because I liked the title and the cover art. And since it was free there was absolutely no reason I could think of not to take a gamble on it! I carried it off and there it sat on my bookshelf for a month or so. A couple of weeks ago, a particular bloggy buddy of mine mentioned that she had recently borrowed a copy of this book from her library and was going to give it a whirl so I thought I'd try to read it alongside her. That's my backstory on this particular read.


Please note that since completing this read, I haven't bothered to find out anything about Kate Morton so all of my comments are related to this title alone without any additional knowledge of her or her writing history.


Did I like this book?

The short answer:

Yes, with some exceptions.

The long answer:

I found Morton's style of story telling to be captivating. The book tells the story of four women who lived in three different periods in history. All of the women are connected in some way with others and the mystery of the book is exactly how their paths cross. The story slowly unfolds as you jump between the years 1900 and 2005 keeping you guessing the whole while. Personally I'm a fan of stories that cover decades and I don't mind bopping about picking up clues to how everything ultimately fits together. I know that not everyone enjoys that style, but I do.

As this book is part mystery it would be very easy to provide spoilers but I will refrain from doing so. Instead, I'll share part of the description from the book jacket for your information:

"A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book - a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered, and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurts Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family."

I don't know about you, but I thought that sounded really interesting and mysterious!

Despite my concerns not to provide spoilers, I do feel compelled to share my hesitations about the read so that you can make the best decision for yourself regarding your own desire to read it.

As The Forgotten Garden was published in 2008 it does fall under the header of "modern novel" which has become synonymous (to me!) with lax writing skills, heavy use of foul language and explicit sex scenes. How did this particular title hold up?

Regarding concern #1 (poor writing): I am happy to report that this book does not suffer from poor writing skill. If Morton is a bad writer, I didn't notice. She held me captive to the pages during the entire read. It's hard to find books which keep you engrossed in them from start to finish but such was the case with me and The Forgotten Garden.

Regarding concern #2 (foul language): I didn't notice any at all so I'm sorely tempted to claim that there wasn't any. However, if another reader told me that they found an "unpleasant word" or two I wouldn't be surprised. I usually only focus on the problem if these words are used in excess. (Excess, for me, being used more than four times and in what I would consider to be rather ridiculous and unncessary circumstances.) Morton never felt the need, so far as I'm concerned, to cheapen the book with cuss words.

Regarding #3 (explicit sex scenes): There is a particular illicit relationship which takes place in this book which is flat out disturbingly wrong. You can see it coming and when it hits you very well understand what is happening. (The incident itself is contained to one chapter.) The way she describes what happens is not very explicit. Of course, I rather wish it hadn't been there at all but, for what it's worth, she is more discrete than most in her description. You know what's happening but it is not written out as a play-by-play.

As I say, you can see it coming a mile away and when it happens you could easily skip the chapter and miss only one item which is important to the plot (but you can put other pieces of the puzzle together to answer any questions you might have).

All in all, I found this book to be a really fun summer read. I cared about each one of these main female characters quite deeply and, as I mentioned, found it difficult to live normal life during the reading of this book! All the same, I don't know that I would necessary seek out another Morton title. Of course, if the opportunity presented itself to pick up another very conveniently (as was in the case with this one) I likely wouldn't turn it down either!

What about you? Have you ever read Kate Morton before? What were your thoughts? Any advice or recommendations to offer to myself and others?


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I felt similarly when I read her Distant Hours:

Melissa said...

I think you should read "The Secret Keeper". I listened to it on audio, and I really liked it, probably more than "The Distant Hours". It's also a decades-sweeping novel (all of hers are, I believe). As far as I can remember, there weren't any "scenes".

Part of the story takes place in WWII London, and I know you're a fan of that era.

Sarah M. said...

I took issue most with that one illicit relationship it really disturbed me. I have found that there's always at least one item in each of Morton's books that disturbs me. On the one hand I love her storytelling and she has such fascinating plots, but there's always at least ONE thing that bugs me/rubs me the wrong way.

Susanne said...

This is in my to be read pile so I'll be getting to it eventually. I've never read any of her stories either.

Annette Whipple said...

I did enjoy this one for the storytelling and general cleanness...but yes, that was disturbing.

I liked that the outcome of what happened seemed to be what WOULD it wasn't romanticized so much. I did try THe Secret Keeper, also on audio, but I don't know if I even finished it. It didn't stay with me like this one did.

Michelle said...

This is my first of hearing about Kate Morton.
Thank you for your very honest review.
It seems to be a basically clean book.
However, because of that one chapter I think I'll pass.

Barbara H. said...

I read The House at Riverton a couple of years ago. I didn't review it, but on a Nightstand post I said of it: " Beautiful, excellent writing, but a sordid, soap-operaish plot-line and an unnecessary vulgar word that I just will not tolerate in fiction." It's really too bad that, as other commenters have said, she tends to have some objectionable thing in her books, even though the rest of the story is fine. I've avoided her books since reading that one, and it's sad, because I did love her writing.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I didn't mention it in my review of Distant Hours, but there is an illicit relationship in it, too. I left it out if my review because I couldn't figure out a way to mention it without it being something of a spoiler that is a last-minute resolution. It left a really bad taste in my mouth, though, over the whole story.

*carrie* said...

I've never heard of her. How fun that you also have a little library/book swap box near you!

Stephanie said...

I have checked out several Kate Morton books at the library and always take the back unread because I just never get to them. I'm encouraged to actually finish one now!

Cassandra said...

I have one of her books on my to-read list but think I'll actually remove it. I love sweeping stories and good storytelling, but despise illicit relationships. They just make me feel smarmy and it's a feeling I can't shake for days after reading/seeing it. That is something I try to avoid at all costs, whether it be novels or movies. Thanks for including that part in your review!

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