Morton, Kate. The Forgotten Garden. Washington Square Press. New York, New York 10020. 2008. Pages: 552
I was a little skeptical about The Forgotten Garden because it seemed so large (in pages) and the title didn’t really grab me. Both my mom and Ms. A had read this book which positively influenced my decision to read it a little more. They both had said that they really enjoyed it, so I figured I would give it a try. However, I was not anticipating how much I would love the book in the end. I would say though that The Forgotten Garden was the most challenging book I have read all year. There were a multitude of things that made this book challenging: the narration change(s), the time frame(s), and the location(s).
Most of the books I have read this year had narrator changes that occurred every other chapter. However, this book changed more often than every other chapter. What made this book so hard to get into at first was that I had to constantly readjust to the character who was speaking. At one point it would be Eliza, then half way through the chapter it would switch to Rose. This made it challenging because without any notice, it would suddenly switch and the author left it up to the reader to figure that out. Later, in other chapters, it would be Nell and later it would be Cassandra. It became very confusing and took me a while to finally figure out how the author chose to do things. Her style was unlike one I had ever read before. Because she left it up to the reader to figure out, I was constantly thinking while reading. It kept me on my toes, and didn’t allow me to “daze-off” while reading, which was great! Sometimes though, I wished that she had clearly stated who the narrator was!
This book took place in a series of years. In some chapters, the time frame would be from 1907-1913, then switch to 1975-1976, and later switch to 2005. While reading, every time the chapter would change, it was always important that I check the right tab to see what era the chapter was taking place in. With the time change, also came language change. In 1907-1913, the language as more formal than it was in 2005. This was challenging because I wasn’t always clear on what the characters were saying. Reading the earlier eras took more concentration and thought processes, so I made sure that I understood as much as I could.
The setting of the book also switched frequently, so along with the date, I also had to be sure to check the location. Some of the book took place in Australia, but most was located in England. However, the location changed every time the era changed. It was also more challenging because I am unfamiliar with England and Australia and the towns/villages the stories were taking place in, so I was forced to form my own mental image of it. It is easier reading a book that has a specific location that you are familiar with because it allows you to picture it easier. However, by switching up the location and time, it made the book more interesting and exposed me to places I may never get a chance to visit.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; although the changes were sometimes frustrating and confusing, it made the book interesting. With the constant changes and switches, it kept me on my toes and didn’t allow me to get bored. I had never read a book with constant changes, and I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. By the end of the book, I realized that by providing the reader with information from different locations, years and characters we were ultimately able to solve the mystery of The Forgotten Garden.