In 1913, a young girl is found, seemingly abandoned, on a ship in Australia. The girl possesses only a small white suitcase and has no memory of her identity, but for the few clues her carryon holds. The port master and his wife – unable to have their own children and unable to locate the girl’s family — name her Nell and raise her as their own. She has a happy childhood, until, on the eve of her engagement to her childhood sweetheart, Nell’s father confesses her mysterious beginnings, changing Nell’s life irrevocably.
In 1975 — after her father’s death – Nell receives her little white suitcase in his Will and hazy memories come flooding back. Thus begins a journey to seek out her birth family, leading her to a small cottage on the shores of England and a hidden garden that carries the secrets of her past. But when Nell’s granddaughter, Cassandra, is left in her care, she gets sidetracked from her mission.
It’s not until 2005, after Nell’s death, that Cassandra will attempt to follow the trail left by Nell to discover the family’s true origins.
When I started reading The Forgotten Garden, I was hit with how closely the elements of the story aligned with The Secret Keeper. And while I very much enjoyed that book, I was not really in the mood to read it again immediately after finishing it. But as I continued to read, I realized that while the same themes are pervasive in Morton’s writing, many of the similar narrative shifts were flipped or shifted in a way that helped the story stand-alone.
As I’m sure is obvious after reading the synopsis, this book falls right in line with my historic-generational-mystery fiction junky-ism to which my previous reviews no doubt allude. I am honestly only just discovering this about myself since I began this blog. Having said that, this may just be a phase I’m in at the moment. Time will tell.
So back to the book. As you may be able to surmise, the story itself was somewhat ambitious. Told through the perspective of three generations of women and spanning over a century, this book effortlessly transports you from one era to the next and back. At its heart, it shows the power one event can have on future generations and the unbreakable connection we all hold to our past.
The book did tend to drag a bit here and there, which I find can happen with mysteries. There are just so many unanswered questions and I get impatient. But for the book to feel believable, there is a due process you must follow and waiting is part of what makes the reveal so satisfying. It was a nice weighty book and it really allowed me to settle down and get to know and care for the characters. If you’re looking for a solid book to sink into for a week at the cottage: this one’s for you.