The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton, Atria, 2009, 549 pp
I am almost ashamed to admit I liked it, but The Forgotten Garden pleased me in many ways. Mostly I fell in love because it put me back into the delicious reading mode of The Secret Garden, one of my most loved books as a young girl. In fact, this piece of women's fiction is The Secret Garden for grown-up females. Frances Hodgeson Burnett even makes a cameo appearance.
The book has everything: an orphan, a mystery, three generations, Australia, an English manor house, romance, and a secret garden, and two awesome heroines. The writing is pretty good, with some odd quirks. Though the plot is predictable she still keeps you guessing until the very end. That end is a long time in coming but I was a happy reader on almost every page.
The accomplishment is that Morton took the elements that made The Secret Garden so captivating to me as a child and that made me a lifelong voracious reader, and adapted them to a contemporary novel. Really she did not miss a trick.
I realized why I like The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield so much, why I love Tana French and even Joyce Carol Oates. All of these authors (and more like Charles Dickens, Charles Frazier, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to give the boys a chance) create a magical brew of storytelling wherein the mundane facts of daily life are imbued with the wonder and somewhat supernatural essence that hides behind the illusion of what we call "real life."
I look for many different experiences when I read but most of all I look for that magical brew.
(The Forgotten Garden is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)