The Forgotten Garden
1913. On the eve of the First World War, a little girl is found abandoned after a gruelling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember of the journey is that a mysterious woman she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. But the Authoress has vanished without a trace.
1975. Now an old lady, Nell travels to England to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall, and to a beautiful estate called Blackhurst Manor, which had been owned by the Mountrachet family. What has prompted Nell’s journey after all these years?
2005. On Nell’s death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into a surprise inheritance. Cliff Cottage, in the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, is notorious amongst the locals for the secrets it holds – secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is at Cliff Cottage, abandoned for years, and in its forgotten garden, that Cassandra will uncover the truth about the family and why the young Nell was abandoned all those decades before.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Forgotten Garden - but while it was an enjoyable read, it did have its flaws. It had been sat on my Kindle for a while and I’d never really given it much thought, so I thought it was about time I got around to reading it. The book shifts between many different periods of time (from the end of the 19th century to 2005); however, as everyone is linked throughout the story, it’s fairly easy to keep up with. In fact, this aspect of weaving several different stories into one is one of the things I liked about the book.
The story centres around Nell, who was found on a boat in Australia in 1913. She is then ‘adopted’ by the man who finds her, and his wife. On her 21st birthday Nell discovers the truth about her childhood, but it’s not until her father dies when she is in her 60s that she can begin to discover the truth about who she is. When Nell dies in 2005 the mystery is still unsolved, until her granddaughter Cassandra inherits a cottage in Cornwall and sets about finishing what Nell started.
As quite a few periods of time are covered within the book it’s no surprise that there are also a lot of characters. The number of characters wasn’t an issue for me, but the lack of description was. I feel that some of the more important characters would have benefited from more descriptive writing; I couldn’t really get a sense of what they were like. At one point one of the major characters is describing how, when she looks in the mirror, all she sees is her twin brother staring back. This is meant to be powerful and emotive as her twin brother has just died. However, I was personally left feeling a little unperturbed by it, as I didn’t have a sense of what the character looked like so it was hard to connect with the scene.
Another flaw for me was the fact that I guessed the big secret probably less than a quarter of the way through the book. I won’t spoil it for anyone wanting to read it, but it really wasn’t that hard to work out. I don’t know if this was done on purpose, but I highly doubt it considering how early on in the book I was able to guess. I can see how some people would be put off by this as it detracts from the big reveal later on, but the story was still engaging enough for me to continue – even though I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.
Despite its flaws The Forgotton Garden really was an enjoyable book. I didn’t want to put it down even when I knew what would happen, and the different stories in different time periods went some way to make up for the other stuff I didn’t enjoy so much. I liked how lots of the characters got their own sub plot, but that they still all linked together within the main story.
If you’ve had you’re eye on this book, it’s definitely worth reading it. It’s nothing groundbreaking or overly original but it has some really good moments, and for those parts I’d recommend it.