Cassandra couldn't help herself. She curled up on her side in the center of the camp bed. It was the perfect place for reading, cool and quiet and secret. Cassandra always hid when she read, though she never quite knew why. it was as if she couldn't shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong.
But surrender she did. Let herself drop through the rabbit hole and into a tale of magic and mystery, about a princess who lived with a blind crone in a cottage on the edge of a dark wood. A brave princess, far braver than Cassandra would ever be.
I loved this passage and thought about how like my young self it was. I used to curl up in corners and beneath covers and behind chairs to read as kid. And read and read and read. So what happens in The Forgotten Garden? Well, it begins with a little girl who is discovered all alone on the wharf in Brisbane, Australia. The year is 1913 and she's sitting there with her small suitcase as if she's waiting for just the right family to come along. In fact, the wharf master discovers the small child and takes her home, hoping to find the people who belong to her. It never happens though and he and his wife raise the little girl, who they name Nell, as one of their own.
When Nell is 21, her father tells her how she came to be part of their family. And this changes Nell's life forever. The little suitcase contains few items, but most importantly, it contains a book of fairy tales, and the connections of these stories and Nell and a large and desolate house on the Cornish coast make up The Forgotten Garden. The book is told with chapters alternating between various important dates from the early 1900's to 2005, when Nell's granddaughter, Cassandra, finally discovers all the secrets that have been hidden for so many years. Some might find the shifting time and location device to be hard to follow, but I loved it. So many characters, all connected, and how did the pieces fit together? I puzzled and puzzled and still didn't figure out everything.
There are fairy tales, written by The Authoress, Eliza Makepeace, included. There is indeed a lovely garden, hidden behind walls and set on a windswept coast. There is a cottage and there are wicked characters and good and true characters as well. The author of The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, even makes a small appearance. And there are Gothic overtones galore. Perfect!
Again, I'll highlight the really excellent narration performed by Caroline Lee. She does a great job with all the accents and I look forward to listening to more of Kate Morton's books read by Ms. Lee. The audio runs just over 20 hours, so be prepared for a longer listen. I can't wait to move on to Morton's other 4 books. Have you read any of Kate Morton's books? Which is your favorite?