Length: 549 pages
Setting: England and Australia, 1900-2005
Interest: It was a book my mother gave me after she read it.
Summary: When Cass’s grandmother, Nell, dies, Cass finds out Nell had a big secret. Nell had been adopted by her parents when she appeared on the docks in Australia, one day in 1913. We then follow Cass as she tries to solve the mystery of who Nell really was. We jump between Cass and Nell’s lives, including Eliza, the author of a book of fairy tales Nell was found with. Eliza was count to Rose Mountrachet. Eliza and Rose grew up together, after Eliza was rescued from the slums of London. It looked like Nell was Rose’s daughter, except that Rose was infertile. More digging reveals the secret that Nell was really Eliza’s daughter and Eliza conceived her for Rose to raise.
Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book, especially seeing the story from multiple time periods. you really had to pay attention to the dates at the start of each chapter so you knew where you were in the story. Each chapter filled in another piece of the puzzle of where Nell came from and why she was sent to Australia as herself. There’s even a bit of a mystery about Cass that is slowly revealed. Elements of the story reminded me of The Secret Garden as well (the hidden garden, the distant relation brought into a gloomy house who makes the child well). I also appreciated the fact that we got to read several of the fairy tales that were integral to the story.
I figured out Nell was Eliza’s baby about 2/3rds of the was through the book, but I still wanted the details about how and why it happened. Eliza was a surrogate mother for Rose, but Rose really couldn’t handle the fact that she couldn’t conceive and bear her own child. Rose had an image of herself as a mother and she started to become unhinged when she couldn’t fulfill that image.
Title comes from: There was a special garden at the end of a maze that was Eliza and Rose’s. Cass found it when she inherited Eliza’s cottage from Nell.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 34/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge
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