Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: Like Frances Hodgson Burnett''s beloved classic The Secret Garden, Kate Morton''s The Forgotten Garden takes root in your imagination and grows into something enchanting--from a little girl with no memories left alone on a ship to Australia, to a fog-soaked London river bend where orphans comfort themselves with stories of Jack the Ripper, to a Cornish sea heaving against wind-whipped cliffs, crowned by an airless manor house where an overgrown hedge maze ends in the walled garden of a cottage left to rot. This hidden bit of earth revives barren hearts, while the mysterious Authoress''s fairy tales (every bit as magical and sinister as Grimm''s) whisper truths and ignite the imaginary lives of children. As Morton draws you through a thicket of secrets that spans generations, her story could cross into fairy tale territory if her characters weren''t clothed in such complex flesh, their judgment blurred by the heady stench of emotions (envy, lust, pride, love) that furtively flourished in the glasshouse of Edwardian society. While most ache for a spotless mind''s eternal sunshine, the Authoress meets the past as "a cruel mistress with whom we must all learn to dance," and her stories gift children with this vital muscle memory. --Mari Malcolm
Read an excerpt and the reading group guide for The Forgotten Garden.
Amazon Exclusive: A Conversation with Author Kate Morton
Q:The Forgotten Garden has some marvelous parallels with Frances Hodgson Burnett''s The Secret Garden, and Burnett even makes an appearance in your book as a guest at a garden party. Did her book inspire portions of your story?
A:The Secret Garden was one of my favourite books when I was a little girl. Along with stories like The Faraway Tree and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it''s one of many classic childhood tales in which children escape from the adult world to a place in which their imagination is allowed free rein. However, it wasn''t my intention to reference The Secret Garden when I first started writing.
In fact, The Forgotten Garden (which was called The Authoress until the final draft!) began with a family story: when she was 21, my grandmother''s father told her that she wasn''t his biological child. Nana was so deeply affected by this knowledge that she told no one until she was a very old lady and finally confided in her three daughters. When I learned Nana''s secret, I was struck by how fragile a person''s sense of self is and knew that one day I would write a story about someone who experienced a similar life-changing confession.
When I began to write about Nell, I knew that her mystery was going to lead her to an English cottage, but the other details were hazy. It was while I was auditioning English locations for my book that I came across mention of the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. My interest was piqued, and I began reading everything I could find about this place: a grand country estate with astounding gardens that had been locked and forgotten after its gardening staff were killed during the first world war and the owners moved away.
When it was rediscovered in the late 20th century, nature had reclaimed the estate, but the bones of the garden lay deep beneath the overgrowth. This story really fired my imagination and I knew that I''d not only found my location--Cornwall--but that I would also need a forgotten garden in my story!
I was also eager to play with 19th-century gothic conventions in The Forgotten Garden. I adore books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and I wanted a gloomy old house, wicked aunts, secretive servants, hidden identities, mysterious whisperings--the lot. But when my garden grew walls, I suddenly remembered The Secret Garden, and with my theme of fairy tales and storytellers and the vital role that such things play in a child''s imagination, I couldn''t resist introducing parallels (including a walk-on role for Frances Hodgson Burnett). It was a way of referencing my own childhood influences--Enid Blyton and the Famous Five get a couple of nods throughout, too!--and was a lot of fun.
From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The House at Riverton, a novel that takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through generations and across continents as two women try to uncover their family’s secret past
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-fi rst birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace 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. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.
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