Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This book fell short of its potential in so many ways for me. I can see that the author was trying to pay homage to Victorian Romanticism, its writers and craft, and romance, and it is an ambitious attempt to create a saga, but it falls victim to a messy predictable plot, lack of voice, and flat characters. The plot follows three women: Eliza in London during 1913, Nell in 1975, and Cassandra in 2005. The jumps in time and flashbacks were awkward at times and I found myself rereading sections to try and follow the story thread. Eliza was more interesting than the other two making me skim through some sections to get on with her story. The mix of fairy tale, "Secret Garden" plot, and mystery didn't work particularly well either. The mystery was easy to figure out and the fairy tale foreshadowed the plot and while it was written well, it gave away too many clues and was clunky how it was worked into the plot. The time changes were jarring at first and the voice would change making parts inconsistent. This got better as the story progressed. Sometimes the Victorian voice of the characters was distinct and then they'd sound modern or alike. I thought the three characters sounded alike at times and didn't represent the different time periods well. This got really high ratings on Goodreads and I have some friends who really liked the time juxtaposition of the characters and how the stories intertwined. I'd describe this emotionally charged book as romantic with a weak mystery and few historical details.

The mystery surrounds a woman trying to discover her biological parents. It was easy to figure out even though the author tries to add different suspicions, particularly at the end, but they were illogical choices. Some might like the mystery but there weren't enough plot twists for me. I did like the twist with the doctor and would have liked more along those lines. The story begins in Australia in 1975 with a woman, Nell, full of regrets. I disliked the beginning the most because the premise is absurd. It doesn't make sense that Nell would react so strongly against her adoptive parents and family. She goes from a happy person to an isolated woman that creates her own suffering. The plot here felt forced to setup for the rest of the book.

Her granddaughter, Cassandra, bored me the most. All three women have something tragic happen to them that changes their lives forever and Cassandra is a prop that is supposed to represent hope for the future. I found Eliza from the Victorian period the most interesting of the threesome, but she never comes to life as the reader is not privy to her inner monologue. There are some plot points left undotted as well. The brother-niece deal is not explained. Eliza needed a clearer character arc along with Nell. Cassandra's is the only clear one but her story held my interest least and her dialogue with Christian was dull. The stepmother is your one-dimensional fairy-tale stock character while her daughter, Rose, has more depth. The minor characters with the author of "The Secret Garden" showing up was fun. The nod toward Victorian writers and their craft is throughout. I liked it when the author tried to imitate the writing of the Romantics with their emphasis on nature and its healing nature. The orphan section of the plot is mimicking Dickens and there are nods to the Bronte sisters, Grimm and Andersen fairy tales, and more. I thought it was too much and enhanced an already choppy plot making it lack cohesion. I tried to like this one, but the author tries to do too much and it doesn't have enough focus for me.

2 Smileys

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