I love books with non-linear plots.  As I’ve mentioned previously, The Shell Seekers, which moves between present-day and World War II-era England, is a favorite.  Pilcher skillfully transitions between the time periods, as well as among characters, in a way that allows the reader to follow the story effortlessly.

Unfortunately, I’m not finding the same to be true of Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden.  The story is interesting, but not nearly as effortless.  The novel opens in 1913 London, with a little girl waiting on the deck of a ship for the woman who told her to stay there.  We quickly transition to 1930 Australia, when the girl, now called Nell and turning 21, is told by her father that she was found alone as a child on the docks and taken in by him and his wife when no one claimed her.  We then jump to a hospital in 2005 where Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra sits by her deathbed, before skipping backwards to 1976 when the two first establish their relationship.

This all takes place in the first thirty pages, and the pace doesn’t slow much in the next thirty (although no new significant time periods are added). It may just be that I’m still recovering from a flu bug and am lacking my usual powers of concentration, but the rapidity of the transitions has left me a little disoriented and unable to read more than a chapter or two of the book at a time. 

That being said, it’s still a book I plan to continue reading — just perhaps in small doses.  Having never read anything set primarily in Australia, that aspect interests me, as does the relationship between the grandmother and granddaughter.  A downside to the time-skipping is that no one character has been fully fleshed out as of yet, but the early portrayals of these two show enough promise to hold my attention.


~ by Molly on February 12, 2009.

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