by Kate Morton
A little girl, four years old, arrives in Australia on a ship that has come from England. She is alone and has no papers to identify who she is. The port master takes her home, because, of course, he couldn’t leave a little child alone at the docks. She has had a fall on board the ship that has caused her to lose her memory. She doesn’t even remember her name. The port master and his wife call her Nell. They fall in love with the child and decide to keep her and raise her as their own. Weeks go by and no one seems even to have missed her, and the couple become more comfortable with their decision. When a letter finally comes from someone searching for a lost little girl, the port master cannot bring himself to tell his wife. So she becomes a part of their lives, and they are a happy family. Not until her twenty-first birthday does Nell learn the truth about her adoption. Although she loves the people who raised her, she is thrown into a state of confusion, a feeling of not belonging, of being lost and not knowing who she really is.
When her father gives her a small suitcase that she had upon her arrival in Australia, she finds in it a book that serves to stimulate her memory, if only slightly. The Forgotten Garden is the story of her search for her true self and of all the things she learned as a result of that search. She travels to England to a little village in Cornwall where she finds a small cottage with a walled garden. That will be the most important clue to unearthing the secrets of many years. At her death her granddaughter takes up the search, visiting the same village and retracing her grandmother’s steps. She never gives up until she learns the truth about Nell. Her search has a profound effect on her just as Nell’s search influenced her. The truths they learn about themselves are life-changing.
This is a mystery and a bit of a love story. It is told in a series of flashbacks to 1913, 1930, 1975, and 2005. It is an interesting way to see the story unfold, but it made it a little hard to follow at first. Once I was sure of what the circumstances were in each generation, it became less of a distraction. The story contains stories within the story that give clues to the final resolution of the mystery. This is light, easy reading that could be characterized as “a good summer read”.