Four years ago, I posted a photo of the stack of books I got for Christmas and later updated the post with links to the book reviews. This year, I’ve already finished one of the books (the longest one!) so this post isn’t just a tease–it also includes one review!
The Forgotten Garden is the only book I actually unwrapped on Christmas morning. Then I received 5 others from Daniel’s mother at her New Year visit . . . I picked up 2 from Little Free Libraries over the past few weeks . . . and A Finer Future has been in my “to be read” stack for a year, so I’m including it here to hold myself accountable for reading it this year! (Fiction tends to get my attention more easily than nonfiction.)
The books I’m planning to read in 2020–with links to my reviews added as I review them–are
- It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
- We Need to Talk by Celeste Headlee
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
- You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt
- Reading People by Anne Bogel (The Modern Mrs. Darcy, whose blog I’ve been reading for years!)
- Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
- Educated by Tara Westover
- A Finer Future by Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, Anders Wijkman, and John Fullerton.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
On Nell’s twenty-first birthday in 1930, her father told her that she was not his biological daughter–she arrived as an unaccompanied, unclaimed four-year-old on a ship at the dock where he worked, and he and his wife thought they couldn’t have children (though they later did) so they raised her as their own. Although this disturbing news permanently changed Nell’s personality and relationships with her family, she didn’t investigate her origins at all until 1975, when her father died and left her the suitcase with which she’d arrived.
Then, after visiting her childhood home in England and purchasing an affiliated cottage, Nell returned to Australia intending to wrap up her affairs and move to England–but she was suddenly given custody of her granddaughter Cassandra. Therefore, she remained in Australia for three decades until her death–including many years in which Cassandra was living independently–taking no action regarding her real estate and never mentioning any of this to anyone.
Seems to me this is a rather implausible setup for giving Cassandra a nice, juicy, convoluted mystery to solve after Nell’s death. Cassandra has her own complex setup which is very inadequately explored and seems to exist mainly to give her life vague parallels with Nell’s and trauma to get over by falling in love with the first guy who comes along. The story is told with so many switches of timeline and viewpoint, to maximize suspense, that I felt manipulated and annoyed.
All that said, there’s a lot to like about this book: a complex story of many characters whose motivations shape one another’s lives, an elegant manor house and quaint cottage and mysterious walled-up garden in Cornwall, really interesting clues and false leads and plot twists! I enjoyed reading it, despite my criticisms!
Bookish readers may enjoy reading about my kindergartner’s determination to read Tolkien! Read other writers’ book reviews at Show Us Your Books and Quick Lit!
8 thoughts on “The Forgotten Garden and books I’m going to read in 2020”
I enjoyed that book! I always think she can cut at least 150-200 pages out of each book but I’m sure that would trip up her intricately woven tales.
It’s not the overall length that bothered me but the way it was used–jumping back and forth in time instead of developing the characters more fully. I felt that Nell’s sisters and Cassandra’s mother could have had larger roles that could have facilitated the plot development with real-time suspense.
Sounds like an interesting story. A friend from work was just singing Kate Morton’s praises, so I’ll be checking out one of her books soon 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
The Distant Hours and The Lake House both were very good! The Secret Keeper has the same “Why did she sit on this mystery for decades?” issue and gets off to a slow start, but in the end I was very impressed with it.
Great list! I really enjoyed Educated, Born a Crime, You Learn By Living, and Reading People!
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