Kate Morton is one of my favourite authors, and it’s just the icing on the cake that she’s Australian. I first came across her when I was looking at the audiobooks collection in the library and being that it was quite a small collection it was easy to pick her novel The Forgotten Garden over some of the other choices, even though I’d never heard of her before. The thing that really draws me into her novels is that they’re really well crafted stories, interweaving through different times to become a bigger picture that you only get to see at the end. So far I’ve read The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper, and most recently The Shifting Fog (published internationally as The House at Riverton). In some way they are all very similar in the way that she writes often about family and different time periods and skips back and forth. I don’t want to spoil any of them for you and I really can’t choose my favourite.. Though I guess if I was held at gunpoint I’d have to say The Secret Keeper. Although The Shifting Fog also moved me to tears.. It’s so tough! There is always something that is revealed at the end that maybe you can kind of see coming through a misty veil, but also that you can’t fully be sure of.
So just a little on the one I read most recently, The Shifting Fog, because it’s fresher in my memory. The way that Kate Morton writes is such that you know part of the ending right from the beginning; the skipping through time periods is every other chapter or so. We know right off the bat that the poet Robbie commits suicide with Hannah and Emmeline as witnesses. The story builds from there through the eyes of Grace, a maid at the manor of Hannah and Emmeline’s family. I adore a good service story, one of my favourite books of all time being Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and so this element is a nice one not found in her other books and is well portrayed (as far as my knowledge of English household maintenance and goings-ons holds). The time frame of the past, the 20’s, is so glorified currently; everybody is fascinated by it; e.g. Midnight in Paris film, the reworking of The Great Gatsby with Leo DiCaprio etc etc. It was an excellent era that’s been covered in glitter already by such writers as Fitzgerald. I feel that Kate Morton holds her own with her character building in Emmeline and even widens the scope to include the war and it’s impact on that era. I had a better understanding of why the 20’s came about as they did, through the storytelling. But the beauty in this novel, for me, is in the doomed love. Highly recommended (any of her books really).
By the by, I love the artwork on her website: