Sunday, September 6, 2009

Review #9: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (also featuring The Thirteenth Tale and The House at Riverton)

The question "What has been your favorite book from this past year?" has come up a few times recently and I have always answered, "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton. I'd have to say it is ONE of my favorites anyway. I always love so many :)

If you have not heard of Kate Morton, please check her out. She has two novels,The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden. Some years ago in my bookselling days I was sent an ARC of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and loved it so much that it has become one of my favorite titles to recommend to everyone. After the buzz of that title died down I was really itching for another, what I call, "meaty" novels. So, my trusty friends in the publishing world sent me The House at Riverton and boy, did they know me because it was EXACTLY what I was looking for. From that, I became a huge fan of Kate Morton. Pure genius, in my mind. Don't worry I will include descriptions of all of these books for your reference. Historical literary thrillers I would call them.

Let's start with a description of The Forgotten Garden (from Simon & Schuster's website):

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 with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to fi nd her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.
This is a novel of outer and inner journeys and an homage to the power of storytelling. The Forgotten Garden is fi lled with unforgettable characters who weave their way through its spellbinding plot to astounding effect.

My Review:

This book is very complex. It has a lot going on. Every chapter is told from a different perspective, sometimes the same parts of the story being told from different characters. You go back and forth in time and really get to know each person involved and their motivations. From the description you can see that secrets are very strong throughout, and the quest for truth.

I loved many things about this book. I'll start off with the location. Nothing gets me more than a big glorious manor on some rocky coast of Australia. Haunting, right? And London is always a favorite location of mine. In my mind, it's always foggy and I need to wear the fuzziest sweater and drink lots of tea. And some hairy brooding fellow with a wicked accent is desparately in love with me. (That's a whole other blog post!)

The plot is captivating: A mysterious book found, a girl's true identity unknown, and a family of secrets. The writing is superb: Morton is very detailed in her writing. She had so much going on and wraps it up flawlessly. Only one character did i feel was left hanging but the rest really came full circle. She is a talented writer to create such a layered story.

Historical romance fans this is for you. Literary novel readers, you will love this. Spooky ghost huntin' lovin' peeps out there, grab this book!

This is my quintessential "meaty" novel that I crave, more than red meat and wine. The Thirteenth Tale and The House at Riverton are as well. Think of it as a three for the price of one review deal.

While I'm here, Ms. Setterfield, I am ready for another novel by you...just so you know.

Here are the description for those two:

From Publishers Weekly: The Thirteenth Tale
Former academic Setterfield pays tribute in her debut to Brontë and du Maurier heroines: a plain girl gets wrapped up in a dark, haunted ruin of a house, which guards family secrets that are not hers and that she must discover at her peril. Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. With the aid of colorful Aurelius Love, Margaret puzzles out generations of Angelfield: destructive Uncle Charlie; his elusive sister, Isabelle; their unhappy parents; Isabelle's twin daughters, Adeline and Emmeline; and the children's caretakers. Contending with ghosts and with a (mostly) scary bunch of living people, Setterfield's sensible heroine is, like Jane Eyre, full of repressed feeling—and is unprepared for both heartache and romance. And like Jane, she's a real reader and makes a terrific narrator. That's where the comparisons end, but Setterfield, who lives in Yorkshire, offers graceful storytelling that has its own pleasures.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Simon & Schuster website: The House at Riverton

Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.

In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth.

In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.

The novel is full of secrets -- some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.

I hope you all check out Kate Morton. She is quite extraordinary. The people in my life that have read her after my recommendation have loved her so maybe you will all too.
That's the joy of this blog. I get to recommend to others on such a large scale.

Happy Reading!

* red headed book child


Lisa said...

Looks like a good one! I haven't read any Kate Morton yet; think I'd better check her out.

Unknown said...

Oooh...sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the rec!


Oh I need this book! I have been eyeing it in the books hop for the last few weeks, and I haven't picked it up yet...but if you love it that much, I MUST HAVE IT!!!!!

Alyssa Kirk said...

I've read the 13 Tale and really enjoyed it. I'll have to check out the others! Thanks for the 3 for 1!