Forgotten Garden by: Kate Morton Book Review

The Forgotten Garden Book Club 201118 (Kindle Edition)/Barnes and Nobles (Nook Edition)/Kobo

If you enjoyed the underrated film adaptation of The Secret Garden, you will love this book!


Have you ever watched a film adaptation, whose evocative imagery and rich emotions left an indelible impression on your mind that are imperishable? Ever since the age of four, I can recall such a film that had this very rare effect; it was the 1993 film adaptation of the early twentieth century novel, The Secret Garden. It has been nearly impossible to ever forget the emotions this film stirred in my mind-a rich torpid of emotions nearly impossible for my underdeveloped, three year old mind to clearly articulate. But, I do remember that underlying rhythm of the movie, as though a film that is mostly set within an austere English manor can somehow evoke the perilous dance between life and death. Death was represented by the father and son of the manor, who have both succumbed to the stultifying sterility of grief. Whilst, Mary comes to the manor, eager to restore the mansion with life; her disposition towards finding joy in everything in life and living within the present is a subversion for this crumbling, grief-ridden mansion. She wishes to let the sunlight filter through the crumbling ruins of this mansion, and for the son and the father to be healed by the restored life captured in the garden that has been locked away from their cloistered, grief-choked reality. This was a powerful image of resurrection-life restored.  Mary symbolizes the infectious nature of joy and life, and it is those that are able to find joy in nearly all things in life that have that rich ability to bring healing to everything dead around them.

To be brutally honest, this film adaptation had much more of an effect on my young mind than any  Old Testament Biblical story with its garish violence or sadism, or its complete lack of edification and catharsis for the reader.  The Secret Garden had that rare ability to have depth, without resorting to some type of brutality to violently convey the same that same age-old image of death and life inextricably existing in the ever-turning wheel of life. Much like the Greek myth of Orpheus, The Secret Garden touches upon something deep and resonating in the human soul- it had that uncommon ability to impress upon the mind of the hope of life found even in the darkest moments of life. More importantly, The Secret Garden and many other modern English Gothic novels rely on the rare subtlety of allowing the imagery of the story evoke the underlying nuances of the story.

Why bring The Secret Garden into a discussion of Kate Morton’s “Forgotten Garden?” Why not? The Forgotten Garden pays poetic homage to the allegorical meaning of The Secret Garden, without emulating the story-line and structure of that novel. Kate Morton is endowed with the art of being able to pay respect to traditional tropes that are commonplace in such noteworthy English Gothic novels, while being able to rely upon her intuitive grasp of how to tell a rich story. And, The Forgotten Garden is indubitably rich, subtle, and unforgettable in its execution. The novel is written from three different perspectives that seem unrelated, but become more closely related by the end of the novel. It tells of the enigmatic features of our origins-where do we come from and what abilities and senses are we endued with that are qualities that our ancestors have? Kate Morton is able to tell a story across past, present, and future so seamlessly that the novel structurally reflects the post-modern notion of time being relative. Within stories, time is a mutable force, and writers can tinker with the past and future lives of a character’s future descendants that provides us a complex scheme of life across a large span of time. This is an ability that we don’t have in reality, because we can only realistically see what is before us. But, novels can reflect that cognitive dissonance of our sense of time, that makes us paradoxically dwell on the past and future, whilst momentarily forgetting that we are fixed to a certain point in time.

This novel makes you forget your coordinates in reality, neglecting the fact that you are reading a book. Once this book has ensnared you with its rich, ethereal prose, you will most likely get lost in the story of Eliza and her ancestors. You will never want this book to end, and you might have trouble finishing it- because you don’t want it to end. We inhabit a world of frenetically-paced people that evaluate a book based on how quick they can finish it. This book is one that rewards meticulous readers that are always the proverbial tortoise that slowly, but surely reaches the end of the book with deeper insights into the structure of the novel. So, neglect your Kindle’s built-in timer (obnoxiously reminding you of your reading pace), and let this rich story unwind at a leisurely, methodical pace!! You will come away from the story with a lasting impression of the edifying beauty that is expertly hidden in the tangles of this story!! I love Kate Morton’s writing because the subtlety of her writing is such a rare type of storytelling in a world of books that favor pace and “speedy-reading” over a book that demands quiet, meditative reading to truly appreciate the very, very quiet beauty of this book.

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