Book Review: The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

2 Stars

This is a story about three women (and various other, sometimes seemingly pointless characters) whose lives are connected. The novel time-jumps from 2005 to the mid-1970’s to the early 1900’s, following a different character in each era.

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The story is presented as a mystery, with the present-day woman uncovering family secrets. The ‘secrets’ in question, however, aren’t enough to carry this book. The big reveal at the end is predictable, although not something you would find readily in another novel. I figured out the end with probably two hundred pages to go, and had to sit though chapters of idiotic sleuthing from the present-day woman. I kept hoping that I had the ending wrong and something more insidious (something sinister involving the creepy uncle tops the list) would jump out and bite me, but was sorely disappointed.

As mentioned before, the point of view varies among (mainly) three characters. Most books of this nature follow two. At times, three becomes confusing, especially when two of them are basically on the same mission, albeit in different time periods. In addition to the main three, the author follows several other secondary characters for a time. These bits are misleading, as the reader is led to assume the tangents are integral to the story, when in reality, they are not.

The story is laced with several fairy tales, which I feel were unnecessary, especially in a book that tops out over five hundred pages. The stories are connected to the main storyline, but I don’t think it was necessary to point out certain themes in this manner.

To the author’s credit, the characters were well-rounded (for the most part). The present-day characters were flat and I couldn’t find it in myself to care about them at all. (Not to mention the fact that a time-jump novel with a contemporary woman who has a tragic past and heals during the story’s progression has been done to death.) The historical characters (meaning the ones in the early 1900s), however, were full of life. Especially Eliza, the character that steals the story.

I think I would have been less disappointed if the story were presented as a family saga, or at least if Morton would have kept her main characters to two instead of three and cut out the unnecessary tangents.

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