Ordinarily I hate a book that lets me suss out the ending but Kate Morton switches gears in so many directions and tosses in so many tangential twists that I can forgive her for using the most logical conclusion. What fun, as she adds another branch to her plot and hangs up another curious character so easily and naturally connected. Though I must say I still have a very hard time with a four-year old left on a ship hiding behind barrels — even in 1913. Abandoned? Hardly. But why would you leave so young a child alone in the first place? At any rate, the story of each of the three generations of women captures your attention and makes it hard to put the book down.
All of Ms. Morton's characters are so easy to read: the harridan Mrs. Swindell, Rose's loving husband/artist, Lord Montrachet's hopelessly protracted search for his lost sister, and the well-meaning, if incompetent, Dr. Matthews. Even as you catch on to the machinations of Rose's evil mother, you can anticipate her next bit of nastiness. She does not disappoint, right to the very end.
I'm betting money that the connection to Frances Hodgson-Burnett was the germ that brought The Forgotten Garden to light. Truly, it’s the garden that holds the key, isn’t it? I'm always a sucker for fairies and characters who believe in them. The Authoress, like many brought up in poverty, has that vivid imagination weaned on hunger and deprivation, which fairy stories require. Who's to blame her for thinking that at last, her fairy tale might come true. As Bloody Mary sang, "if you haven't got a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true".
So the end of Nell's tale and the solution to her appearance in Australia reaches it's conclusion as expected. She does indeed soften the conclusion in letting the garden tie the characters together. It's not the ending I wanted but I kept reading in the desperate hope that it might not be so. After all, I still believe in fairies.