I have a secret fondness for books about old houses, or old gardens. Show me a wreck of a house, or a lost garden, and I am in booky heaven. I don’t mind if the book is fiction or non-fiction, real or made up, even what happens in it – horror, history, DIY restoration, even romance, as long as the place itself has been lost in some way, and then found in some way. Sarah Rayne and FG Cottam’s haunted house books are great for this, as is anything about the Lost Gardens at Heligan (SO on my list of places to visit when I finally get to do a geriatric version of the Big O.E.).
I think this is how I stumbled across Kate Morton – just the title The Forgotten Garden was enough to make me lunge at it across the shelves. Now I have to confess here that normally I wouldn’t give those great big chunky sagas a second look, but with the promise of hidden gardens, old abandoned houses and mysterious family secrets I thought I could step outside the zone and try something new. Although when I say ‘new’, what I really mean is ‘not new’ – The Forgotten Garden was published in 2009, but I only found it recently. I’m guessing this is because Morton’s books are so popular – her most recent title The Secret Keeper has a lot of holds on it, so obviously you guys rate her pretty highly.
The Forgotten Garden turned out to be a great read – well-written, well-researched and grounded in real, close-to-home history, and with really appealing characters. I loved the bits about the garden and the house, with all its mysteries and family secrets, and even surprised myself by enjoying the whole ‘sweeping saga’ thing. Now I’m thinking I might give The Secret Keeper a go too. I know there’s a waiting list, but since it’s the holidays I might even spoil myself and pick up a best-seller copy – for the price of a (large) coffee, I can take a best-seller home, with all the usual benefits of best-sellers: they’re shiny, they’re always available even when there’s a long waiting list for regular copies, and best of all, you can say to your family, “No, I’m sorry, I CAN’T do the housework, I have to get this book finished by the end of the week.”
Sounds like a pretty good holiday plan to me.
PS. Can anyone recommend any other books about lost gardens or abandoned houses? Or even write me one, quickly? I’m running out of things to read here …