Book Review: The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton

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The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the few books that I’ve read for our Avondale Book Club that I can say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, without reservation.

It is written in three time frames, through the eyes of three women (Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra), with occasional glimpses from other people. I quickly adapted to the frequently shifting time frames, being sure to note at each one where and when the story was taking place. Other people said that they found it distracting, so YMMV.

The book is a mystery of sorts, though not a murder mystery, which is usually what one thinks of when hearing the term. Rather, it is a mystery of who Nell’s folks were, who left her on the ship going from England to Australia, and why they never came back for her.

Each question is answered by the end, following a story of false leads, red herrings, and other plot points you expect in a mystery, to a very satisfying conclusion.

I had some problem with Nell, reacting on being told at age 21 that she was adopted, basically trying to drop out of life, and distancing herself away from her family, not for a few weeks or months, but apparently for years. I was able to justify it to myself by assuming she inherited the family trait of brooding and making everything worse by it (seen in the 1915 timeline done by Creepy Uncle Linus, Aunt Adelaide, Rose, and even Eliza). Other people complained about Nell then breaking off with her wonderful fiance, and going off and marrying a jerk, but I must have missed that part. What little I remember seeing of her husband (and very little it was, too), was that he moved the family from Australia to America, that he really loved his daughter, and that he died young, so Nell and her daughter moved back to Australia. Not enough for me to make a real judgement in the matter.

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you enjoy mysteries, don’t let the size of the book scare you off, it reads quickly.

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Book Review — Troll Valley

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Troll ValleyTroll Valley by Lars Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve never done a book review before, so I’m still figuring out how to do it. First of all, I’ll say that I really enjoyed reading “Troll Valley”. I’d call it a Christian/American Historical Fiction (turn of the 20th century)/Fantasy book, with a light dusting of horror from time to time (mostly off-screen).

When I started the book, the fact that it opened with a character waking up in a strange room with no idea where he was, or how he got there, I almost burst out laughing. That set-up is almost a cliché for a bad slush entry. Fortunately, though, it didn’t stop me from reading it.

I enjoyed the fact that the book was unabashedly Christian, though not always in favor of the Church, especially as shown in the narrator’s mother.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about the book was the glimpses of magic seen throughout it. The narrator will be talking about some perfectly ordinary happening of the early 20th century, and then suddenly and matter-of-factly go into a vision or some other magical event. He does no magic, but has magic in his blood, which profoundly effects him and his family, even four generations later.

Portions of the book revolve around the narrator’s church experience, which starts off well, and gradually deteriorates. But at the climax of the book, some of the characters stop a great evil from being done by quoting Scripture. That was a high point of the story to me.

The low point was the section shortly before that, where we watch the first person narrator gradually turning himself into a world-class jerk, and seeing all his justifications for it.

The main story ends on a sustained note of pure, undeserved grace. I enjoyed it, but it reminded me, that to the world, and on the outside, moments of grace can sometimes be confused with stupidity. It also made me wonder how Bathsheba felt.

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