The Forgotten Garden
Kate Morton's book, The Forgotten Garden was a fantastic surprise. I picked it up thinking it would be somewhat entertaining and then I found myself totally immersed and unwilling to stop reading. Good thing Steve was on a business trip last night, because I stayed up until after 2:00 a.m. to finish the book.
This book reminded me in different ways of so many others. First, and most obviously, it's like Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's book, The Secret Garden. Similarities include a weak, sickly cousin entertained and helped by a robust, healthy cousin who happens to be orphaned; a walled garden planted with beautiful flowers and trees; and a few servants who are kind and willing to help more than duty requires. Ms. Morton even has one of the book's characters read Burnett's book, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and Mrs. Burnett appears briefly in the book at a reception in her honor.
Second, this novel reminded me of Diane Setterfield's book, The Thirteenth Tale. But I think it's better. Really better. There's a mystery surrounding the identity of Nell, introduced at the beginning of the book as an old woman dying in Australia. Her granddaughter, Cassandra, flies to England to search out the answer to the question, "Who was Nell, and how did she end up alone on a ship bound for Australia at the age of 4?" Part of the mystery, or one of the clues, is a book of fairy tales, and several of the tales are included as part of the book. (That also reminded me of A.S. Byatt's book, Possession.)
Throw in a few characters and situations reminiscient of the best of Charles Dickens, and a smidge of Charles Kingsley's children's classic, The Water Babies, and you have a book that's almost a fairy-tale for adults.