Travel the World in Books to Australia for The Forgotten Garden Readalong in June 2015. Discover the truth behind a prominent family with the help of a book of dark fairy tales and a secret garden.
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The Forgotten Garden Discussion Questions ch1-ch27

Genres: Drama, Fiction, Historical, Mystery or Thrillers, World or cultural

Travel the World in Books to Australia for The Forgotten Garden Readalong in June 2015. Discover the truth behind a prominent family with the help of a book of dark fairy tales and a secret garden.

Hello book lovers! If you are joining us for The Forgotten Garden Readalong, I hope you are enjoying the book. If you’re visiting our readalong for the first time, welcome! This month, Lost in Books,  Savvy Working Gal and I are happy to host a readalong of The Forgotten Garden as part of our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. This book was voted on by our Goodreads group for our Australia selection. Travel the World in books with us, it’s never to late to join our challenge and enjoy reading and learning about different countries and cultures. 

About The Forgotten Garden

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book; a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

WARNING: THIS DISCUSSION WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. If you haven’t read chapters 1 through 27 of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and don’t want spoilers, please come back to discuss when you are done with those chapters. We also have a great discussion in our Goodreads group too.

Ok, here goes…

Story Recap

The book opens with a little girl on a boat from Australia to England with the Authoress, who tells her she must not tell her name to anyone. The Authoress disappears and the little girl is left alone. The little girl grows up to be Nell, who is blindsided on her 21st birthday with the news that she was adopted.

Nell’s life comes to a halt, she breaks up with her fiance and becomes reclusive from her sisters. Nell begins to put the pieces together for who her real parents are until her granddaughter, Cassandra, arrives to live with her. Nell puts her investigation on hold and upon her death, Cassandra inherits the notebook containing Nell’s secrets, a mysterious English cottage, a garden and the book of fairy tales that could hold the key to solving her family’s mystery. Nell learns her parents’ identity, her real name and the tragic accident that makes her an orphan.

At the end of this section: in 1900, Lady Adeline and Lord Linus have a cordial marriage. She resents Eliza for coming into their lives and her husband for insisting on bringing Eliza to Blackhurst; in 1975, Nell visits the English cottage as an adult and has a flashback from her childhood while standing in the garden, perhaps her memories aren’t really gone; in 2005, Cassandra obtains a key to the cottage and explores it for the first time.

My Thoughts:

When The Forgotten Garden won our Goodreads poll for our Australia readalong, I was so excited. I’ve heard that Kate Morton’s books are fantastic and I am a mystery buff so I knew this would be one I’d enjoy. I’m reading this one also for Book by Book’s Big Book Summer Challenge and my TBR Challenge

Glad to say, I’m loving the book to this point, even though it is a mighty big book. Author Kate Morton keeps the chapters short, just long enough to tease us with another piece of the puzzle. I do enjoy the alternating time periods but must admit I had to write down the timeline and a family tree to keep details straight. Every time I think we are getting closer to the truth, another little twist begs another question. Will we ever get all our (and Nell’s) questions answered?!?

One of my favorite quotes so far:

There was something easy about William Martin’s company, something insulating about sitting in his front room. This was the power of the story weaver, Nell realized. An ability to conjure color so that all else seemed to fade.”

Isn’t that so true? It describes perfectly how I felt about Morton’s writing, she’s a powerful story weaver. Intricate plot, beautifully crafted setting and complicated characters that has me mesmerized and wanting to read more. I want to know how the story ends but I don’t really want the book to end! 

I love the fairy tale element to the story and how art runs through the blood of this family, both the writing and illustrations hold the key to solving the family’s mystery. I’m captivated by these 3 generations of women, all struggling with their identities and the women they are destined to become. Eliza has a rough start to her life and copes by creating elaborate fairy tales that enchant and haunt her readers. Nell who feels incomplete once she finds out she’s not really her parent’s child. Cassandra, who is haunted by the loss of her own husband and son and struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. I can’t even pick whose story I love most, they are all so good. 

I am a little surprised though how little of this book takes place in Australia so far. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the story set in England. It’s ramshackled London flats and Cornwall cliffs and cottages are a perfect backdrop for an eerie mystery. I do hope the story gets back to Australia soon so we can see more of Australia for our challenge. 

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts with us! 

Discussion Questions

1. Since our Travel the World in Books challenge is to help us discover new countries and cultures, tell us what you’re surprised to learn or what you are enjoying most about the setting: England and Australia. How does the setting enhance the plot and story?

2. Why does Nell desert her fiance and sisters when she learns she’s adopted? If you found out you were adopted, how would that impact your relationship with your family? Would you want to find your birth family? 

3. How do you think art helps Eliza, Nell and Cassandra deal with their lives? Do you think art will help them heal?

4. What is the role or siginificance of Eliza’s fairy tales? We see the fairy tale, The Crone’s Eyes, in this section of the book.

5. Are you surprised to learn who Nell’s birth parents are? Do you think their death was an accident or murder?

6. What is going on with Linus and Rose? Do you think their brother-sister relationship is normal? Is something else going on here? 

7. Who’s story are you most intrigued by? To whom can you most relate? 

8. Do you think this story will end with all questions answered? Or do you think Morton will leave it open-ended for the reader to decide? How do you think it will end? In general, what kind of ending do you like?

9. What do you like most about this book? What drives you crazy about this book?

10. Share some of your favorite quotes from this book.

11. Post some questions you’d like us all to answer. 

Join the Conversation on Goodreads

We’ll be posting the discussion on Goodreads too so be sure to join our groups there and connect with other book lovers who want to Travel the World in Books!


The next discussion post will go live on July 1, 2015 to discuss chapter 28 through the end of the book. Also, mark your calendars to  join us on Twitter on July 8, 2015 from 9-10pm EST for  discussion of The Forgotten Garden. We will be using the #TraveltheWorldinBooks hashtag during the chat. We’re giving you an extra week to finish this chunkster before discussing it! 

If you like historical fiction, be sure to enter to win my giveaway of an ARC of Under the Same Blue Sky, a wonderfully emotional family drama set during WW1. Giveaway open to those age 18 or older and U.S addresses only.

This post linked up with The Book Nook At Create With Joy .

Well that’s it for this week’s discussion. Feel free to answer the discussion questions in the comments and on Goodreads! And please post your own questions you’d like us all to answer. Please join in the conversation to discuss this lovely mystery of a book!


  1. I read this so long ago and I thought I remembered more, but wow I definitely do not. Great discussion questions!
    I remember I really liked the way the story was told backward and forward in time though at first it confused me. I did think it was odd that Nell would just break away from her life upon finding out she’s adopted. I understand going after the truth, but not turning away from your family.

  2. I voted for this book and when I started reading this I realized I’ve read it before. I can’t remember what happens though. I can remember about one chapter ahead of what I’m reading. It feels like I’m mildly psychic!

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