Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blast From the Past with The Forgotten Garden

I've been suffering from reading lag, largely due to my novella challenge.  I read 30 books last month but this month? One.  Finally, one.  I read The Forgotten Garden for one of my book clubs, (although it was already on my shelf from those days when it was the latest thing and I was entranced by the cover anyhow,)  and in a couple of ways it felt like a blast from the past.  (I wanted to wait until my book club met before posting about it, but everyone has been swamped with school, thus the meeting has been put off until next month.  I was already halfway through the book when I found out, and couldn't put off finishing it, so I thought it fitting not to put off posting about it either.)

When I was younger, I loved mysteries.  I loved the way they made me think--those hours at school when I was forced to get my nose out of the book left thoughts swirling through my head and crowding out my teacher's voice.  I've never been so great about actually figuring out the mystery, but that's because the answer isn't what I was after--what thrilled me were the possibilities.  Like so many Christmas gifts under a tree.

I've had intermittent mystery obsessions over the years: a Nancy Drew obsession when I was young developed into a Victoria Holt obsession as a hormonal teen, which then turned into a Mary Higgins Clark obsession as a very young adult.  Since then, not so much.  I've read one Agatha Christie, but that's about it.  So what changed?  Well I grew and discovered literary fiction/non-fiction, and the thrill of a whole new way to get my mind stirred up. The Forgotten Garden, while being a little more refined than the mysteries of my younger days, brought me back there all the same.

Another aspect that brought me back to my youth was the whole premise of the walled garden itself.  I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was young, checking out The Little Princess and The Secret Garden repeatedly from the library.  They were books that stuck with me.  I'm still fascinated by the idea of a walled, overgrown, garden: oh the possibilities!  Kate Morton pays more-than-symbolic-homage to Burnett by actually including her in the book as a visitor to the inclusion I'm torn about.  In a way it was kind of fun, but it also stood out as being a bit silly.  In a book that did a good job with pace and flow, there were still a couple of things that stood out like that (like the use of "suddenly" at one point, which bugged me more than I thought it would: Suddenly, behind her, a crash.  Not the worst "suddenly" sentence ever, but still.)

The fluctuating timeline worked well for the unveiling of the story, and the characters were all believable, though I prefer more depth.  I enjoyed The Forgotten Garden; found it to be an above average read, but I'm not necessarily rushing out to find her other books.  Have you read The House at Riverton or The Distant Hours?  What did you think?

Title: The Forgotten Garden
Author: Kate Morton
Pages: 552
Published: 2010 Washington Square Press (orig. 2008)
Read For: Book Club (& books on my shelf for 1 year +)
My Rating: 3.5 stars


  1. 30 books last month?!? Impressive. Insane, but impressive. :)

    I've been wanting to read this Morton book. I read her newest book, Distant Hours, and I enjoyed it for its atmospheric qualities.

  2. I have read The Forgotten Garden and The Shifting Fog. I did enjoy them both but I found that their endings were really predictable which was a shame.

    I also found them equally as enjoyable as they are forgettable. I will still read others of hers though for the enjoyable factor :-)

  3. Crowe, I know, insane. No wonder I'm experiencing a major challenge hangover! This was an enjoyable read, just a bit predictable like Becky said. I wouldn't mind reading her other books, but I wasn't blown away.

    Becky, I hadn't heard of The Shifting Fog, but GoodReads says it's the same as The House at Riverton (why do they do that??) It does sound really interesting, I'll keep in mind for one of those times when my brain needs a break. :)

  4. Novella Hangover, LOL! I completely agree with your assessment of The Forgotten Garden. It was an audio for me and very enjoyable, but I'm not in a rush to get to The Distant Hours. I would like to read The House at Riverton one day... I'm thinking it might be a good vacation read.

    I read many more mysteries when I was younger and, like you, my reading habits evolved. When you're in the mood for another mystery, I highly recommend Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - so beautifully written, amazing characters, and great plot. My review should be ready in a few days.

  5. That's so funny that everyone thought her books were predictable! I thought she threw in a bizarre twist at the end that was too "out-there". The art, the garden, the fairy tales--heaven. The strange twist--just weird. Her other book that I've read, The House at Riverton, had a sort of strange twist at the end too, but more believable.

  6. I totally know what you mean about the "suddenly"... I once read a book where the author used "presently" way too often -- I almost started counting the times! I didn't notice that in this book, but I get the sentiment.

    That said, I loved this book. I have The House at Riverton, but haven't read it yet - am looking forward to it!

  7. I am reading slowly this month too, but for different reasons to you.

    I haven't read any Kate Morton, but you make me want to read this one as I loved The Secret Garden as a child.

  8. I'm kind of biased because Kate Morton has become one of my favorite authors. I just love the gothic settings and the mysterious plots. House of Riverton was my least favorite of hers as I felt the punch line was too obvious. I like The Forgotten Garden a bit better, but The Distant Hours was my favorite, I'd say. Maybe her books get gradually better? That's how I see it, but I've seen others say they didn't like The Distant Hours at all. Hm, I don't know; I like her work, though. :)

  9. The Forgotten Garden was the first Morton I read, and I liked it enough to be interested in reading The House at Riverton (which was good but not as good). I started The Distant Hours just today and from the synopsis t sounds like the most 'me' book she's written, that I know of.

  10. I used to love the Trixie Belden mysteries when I was a young reader, I had most of them but traded them in when I was in my late teens, I really regret that now! I've got a copy of this on my shelf and am looking forward to reading it whenever I eventually get to it!

  11. I wish that September wasn't so busy and I'd been able to keep up with all your comments, I've so enjoyed reading them! Thanks for sharing about her other books, I liked hearing your thoughts, and I'm glad to know what to expect from them.

    I like that Kate Morton has managed to fit a mystery into a more thoughtful frame. There is something unique about how she creates her settings and the pace in which she unfolds her story.


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