In 1913, an unaccompanied, mysterious little girl arrives by boat in Brisbane Australia and is adopted by the dockmaster and his wife. She doesn’t remember her name and the only clues to her identity is that she was by a women who she calls “The Authoress” and has brought with her a book of fairy tales tucked inside a tiny white suitcase. When “Nell” as an adult begins to put together some of the pieces of her story, she is just about to uncover a major clue to the entire mystery when her grandaughter Cassandra is left in her care, and her sleuthing comes to a halt. When Nell dies, Cassandra is shocked to find that she has been left a cottage in Cornwall, and decides to make the journey to England to once and for all solve the mystery of Nell’s origins.
This is a novel which at 560 pages and shifting back and forth over a vast span of nearly 100 years makes this a bit of a slow read, yet a fascinating one nonetheless. You can see Kate Morton’s love for “The Secret Garden” play repeatedly throughout the pages. I found the characters all pretty interesting although my favorite parts of the book were when I was being transported back to the late 1800’s and early 1900s and learning Eliza’s and Rose’s story. I think my only wish (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) is that the book was a little shorter. I believe that there are some unecessary repetitive descriptions especially, that could have benefitted with a good editing. That said, I still think it’s definitely a book well worth reading. It harkens back to an older time, has wonderful characters, a little mystery, and even some fairy tales. What more could you want?
Reviewed by Kim