Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is set up as a novel told by several different people. The first point of view introduced is that of Nell who has been abandoned on a ship from Australia to London. While on the ship she suffers from a head injury and loses her memory ending up alone in Australia. A family takes her in as their own and does not tell her she is part of the family until her 18th birthday. The rest of the story is explaining how she got on that ship and why by herself, her granddaughter who is searching for answers, and her mother. It has four different time periods covered throughout these characters. The major theme of the book is confronting the past. Nell spends most of her life trying to come to terms with the fact that she does not know who her real family is. When she finds out she breaks off an engagement and alienates her family. She loses all real relationships and never feels completely satisfied with her life. She marries and has a daughter but does not have a great relationship with her and when she grows up and moves out Nell travels across the world to London to search for clues. When her daughter leaves Cassandra, her granddaughter, with her she is forced to abandon her mission when it seems that she will find the answer. She cares for Cassandra for the rest of her life and when she passes away, Cassandra takes over the search. Cassandra sees it as a way to prove her love to Nell one last time. The search takes her all throughout England and has many twists in it that in the end lead to the answer.

The characters are all trying to find themselves searching through the past. For Nell this means that she will abandon the life she has. For Cassandra it is a way to build a new life. Uncovering the mystery is less about what the answer actually is and more about what it means to know who you are and where you come from. Nell feels she cannot go on living the lie that she has been raised in even though it was a happy life. Without knowing where you came from you cannot know where you will go.

Discussion Questions
  1. Is it more important to know the past or build a future?
  2. Is it possible to escape the past, or does one's history always find a way to revisit the present?
  3. How might Nell's life have turned out differently if she had not known the truth?


Megan L.11-12 said...

Responding to your questions.
1. I think it's important to know the past in order to build the future. They both thrive off of each other, you can not do one without the other.

2. There is no way to escape the past. Unless you have Alzheimer's, you'll always know what your past is.

3. Perhaps if she had known, she wouldn't have felt the need to discover her "true self." If she had known at an earlier age, maybe she would have embraced herself quicker without feeling the need to find her true family. Although, it's not likely if her personality is an adventurous.

Deanna K 5-6 said...

1. I definitely agree with Megan. Your past is a part of who you are, so you have to find yourself before you can build on who you are. Therefore, I would have to say that knowing and establishing your past is more important than building your future.

2. I don't believe it is possible to escape your past. It will always be a part of who you are.

3. Bell would have been completely different. She would have felt a part of something and would have felt like her life had been successful instead of it ending without knowing the truth

Bojana D 11.12 said...

As Deanna said in response to question 2, I think your past makes you the person you are today. All the experiences from your past shape us into the individuals.

Question 2 actually reminds me of The Kite Runner and how Amir and Baba's past can never escape them. They may not think about it in certain situations, but it's always with them, always a part of them.

Kali D. 13-14 said...

i think that no matter how hard you try to forget your past, it will always be in the back of your head and will always be with you. I believe that the past can help shape your future.

Julie S. 5-6 said...

I agree that the past is important and can't be escaped but I also think that the family that took Nell in should have kept her past to themselves because they didn't know anything about it. It only ruined the life they had built for her.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

While I believe that the past is always with you, I also believe that its capable of moving beyond the mistakes and regrets of your past. The past should be something you learn from, not something that cripples you for your life.

I also agree with Bojana. These questions do remind me of the Kiterunner. While the characters could not escape there pasts, by the end Amir had come to be able to move beyond the constant guilt and become a better person.

allie s 11-12 said...

i agree with all your comments. You cant ignore your past, you cant hide from it either. What you can do is learn from it and grow as a person. Our present is soon to be our past and our future is the present just waiting to come. Everything ties together and one must learn and except this to move on in life. You cant just find yourself through your past, your past can guide you and shape you, but it is also you surroundings and actions that shape you too. Your past is always you past and you cant change it, your present is soon to be your past, and your future is soon to be your present. :)

Natalie S Mods 5-6 said...

As Allie said, i also agree with everyone's comments on this post. The past must be faced and accepted for a person to be comfortable in life but one cannot live in their past. If a person lives in the past they will lose out on their present and future because life is a big series of moving on. If one cannot move on they will not be at peace with themselves and will never truly discover who they are. Moving on and accepting your past is key to building a future and existing in the present.

Leah A 5-6 said...

I also agree with Bojana that this reminds me of the Kite Runner, which shows how you need to confront your past in order to build a future. However, it is also important to not always live in the past. You shouldn't live your life always saying "what if..." instead you should move on and live each day for the future.

Julie S. 5-6 said...

I didn't notice the similarities to the kite runner while reading it but they do have a lot of things in common.