The Forgotten Garden was the selection for my Book Club last month and I have to say that when I first heard it was the book we would be reading I wasn't all that excited. I had already read this book when it first came out after reading, and loving, the author's first book - The Shifting Fog (or The House at Riverton as it is named in the UK) and I was disappointed that I was going to be "forced" to read a book that I hadn't enjoyed all that much the first time all over again! I had initially felt let down by Morton's second novel - on my first reading I hadn't felt that The Forgotten Garden was as powerful or as original as The Shifting Fog - but my second reading has definitely redeemed the book in my eyes.
The Forgotten Garden (as does Morton's first book) moves between locations, time periods and characters. As the book starts we are introduced to Nell O'Connor who is living in the Australian city of Brisbane in 1930, about to turn 21 and marry her young sweetheart. On the night of her Birthday party her father tells her a secret that he has been keeping from her since she was a young girl - a secret that will eventually send Nell to the English countryside to discover the truth about her history.
Linked in with Nell's story is the story of her granddaughter, Cassandra who learns some of Nell's story after her death and then travels to England herself to track down more of the story and the story of a two young women who despite growing up in very different circumstances in the early 1900's England are intricately linked with each other and with Nell and Cassandra's story.
Ahh the links! They are really the crux of the success (or failure) of this story and for some reason I felt they worked better on the second reading for me - even though I knew how everything turned out in the end! The stories are woven together with themes of art, fairy tales, the essence of truth and connection and loss. It might have been a case of the right book at the right time for me on this occasion but I felt the themes and links worked well to produce a great story and an enjoyable read.