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Forgotten Garden (Morton)

The Forgotten Garden
Kate Morton, 2008
Simon & Schuster
560 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781416550556

Summary  
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 find 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 filled with unforgettable characters who weave their way through its spellbinding plot to astounding effect. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1976
Where—Berri, South Australia
Education—B.A., and M.A., University of Queensland
Currently—lives in Australia


Kate Morton, a native Australian, holds degrees in dramatic art and English literature and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland. She lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia. The House at Riverton is her first novel; The Forgotten Garden, her second, was published in 2008. (From the publisher.)

More
Morton, an acclaimed Australian author, is one of three sisters born in Queensland, Australia. The family later settled on Tamborine Mountain where Morton attended a small country school. She then completed a Licentiate in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London.

Later she earned a first class honours for her English Literature degree at Queensland University. Following this she obtained a scholarship and completed a Master's degree focussing on tragedy in Victorian literature. She is currently enrolled in a Ph. D program researching contemporary novels that marry elements of gothic and mystery fiction.

Kate is married to Davin, a composer, and they have two young sons. All four live together in a nineteenth-century home replete with its own ghosts and secrets (From Wikipedia and the author's website.)



Book Reviews 
Both books reveal Morton as an author in supreme control of her material, and she delivers again, right on target, with another atmospheric historical saga shot through with mystery and secrets, grand passions and tragic woes...like the maze in the forgotten garden of the title, it's a delicious book to become lost in.
Sunday Mail


This is a novel of a writer who is really getting into her stride. The magical opening of The Forgotten Garden launches us into a complex and richly textured world. Morton skillfully interweaves the different periods in which the novel is set, maintaining pace throughout. She gradually strips away layers of mystery, leaving a nice twist to the end...A beautifully written and satisfying novel
Daily Express


A four-year-old girl abandoned aboard a ship touches off a century-long inquiry into her ancestry, in Morton's weighty, at times unwieldy, second novel (The House at Riverton, 2008). In 1913, Hugh, portmaster of Maryborough, Australia, discovers a child alone on a vessel newly arrived from England. The little girl cannot recall her name and has no identification, only a white suitcase containing some clothes and a book of fairy tales by Eliza Makepeace. Hugh and his wife, childless after several miscarriages, name the girl Nell and raise her as their own. At 21, she is engaged to be married and has no idea she is not their biological daughter. When Hugh confesses the truth, Nell's equilibrium is destroyed, but life and World War II intervene, and she doesn't explore her true origins until 1975, when she journeys to London. There she learns of Eliza's sickly cousin Rose, daughter of Lord Linus Mountrachet and his lowborn, tightly wound wife, Lady Adeline. Mountrachet's beloved sister Georgiana disgraced the family by running off to London to live in squalor with a sailor, who then abruptly disappeared. Eliza was their daughter, reclaimed by Linus after Georgiana's death and brought back to Blackhurst, the gloomy Mountrachet manor in Cornwall. Interviewing secretive locals at Blackhurst, now under renovation as a hotel, Nell traces her parentage to Rose and her husband, society portraitist Nathaniel Walker-except that their only daughter died at age four. Nell's quest is interrupted at this point, but after her death in 2005, her granddaughter Cassandra takes it up. Intricate, intersecting narratives, heavy-handed fairy-tale symbolism and a giant red herring suggesting possible incestcreate a thicket of clues as impenetrable and treacherous as Eliza's overgrown garden and the twisty maze on the Mountrachet estate. Murky, but the puzzle is pleasing and the long-delayed "reveal" is a genuine surprise.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell's father, Hugh, tells her a secret that shatters her sense of self. How important is a strong sense of identity to a person's life? Was Hugh right to tell her about her past? How might Nell's life have turned out differently had she not discovered the truth?

2. Did Hugh and Lil make the right decision when they kept Nell?

3. How might Nell's choice of occupation have been related to her fractured identity?

4. Is it possible to escape the past, or does one's history always find a way to revisit the present?

5. Eliza, Nell and Cassandra all lose their birth mothers when they are still children. How are their lives affected differently by this loss? How might their lives have evolved had they not had this experience?

6. Nell believes that she comes from a tradition of 'bad mothers'. Does this belief become a self-fulfilling prophesy? How does Nell's relationship with her granddaughter, Cassandra, allow her to revisit this perception of herself as a 'bad mother'?

7. Is The Forgotten Garden a love story? If so, in what way/s?

8. Tragedy has been described as 'the conflict between desire and possibility'. Following this definition, is The Forgotten Garden a tragedy? If so, in what way/s?

9. A 'plait' motif threads through The Forgotten Garden. What significance might plaits have for the story?

10. In what ways do Eliza's fairy tales underline and develop other themes within the novel?

11. In what ways do the settings in The Forgotten Garden represent or reflect the characters' experiences?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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