Reading is such an extraordinary way to escape reality, and distancing ourselves from the anxieties and uncertainties in our lives is so important for our health and well-being. One hidden gem I have recently reread (for the third time!) and would highly recommend is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. This book journeys back-and-forth in time, place, and perspective, and features the voices of several young women who are bound by a century-old mystery.
Beginning in 1913 in Cornwall, England, this novel revolves around a young girl who is placed on a ship to Australia and arrives with nothing but a suitcase: not even a name. Twenty-one years later, this young girl called Nell discovers a secret that upends her entire world, leading her to question her identity and embark on a journey to discover who she really is.
The story then follows the narrative of Cassandra, Nell’s granddaughter, who inherits an estate in Cornwall upon her grandmother’s death. Not only was Cassandra unaware of the existence of this estate, she also never knew Nell had visited Cornwall, let alone planned to live there. Upon receiving this inheritance, Cassandra picks up the loose threads Nell left behind to unravel the mystery of her grandmother’s life, learning a lot about herself along the way. While Nell and Cassandra are the two focal characters in this story, readers also experience the journey of several other lives that are inextricably intertwined with theirs.
Filled with secrets and revelations that will keep you guessing until the very end, this novel features a mysterious, winding storyline; beautiful, elegant language; and intricate, relatable character development. On top of that, there is a dark book of fairy tales and a secret garden (I can never resist a secret garden!). Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to be whisked away to a forgotten garden in Cornwall or immersed in a multi-generational story brimming with family secrets, mystery, and discovery. This book is also available as an eBook:
Over the last month, I have had the chance (and frankly, the time) to indulge in one of my favorite digital offerings at the Davenport Public Library, Acorn TV! Since mysteries are my genre of choice, Acorn TV a great place to find both long running mystery series and shorter limited run series. Acorn TV has many excellent dramas, comedies and documentaries as well. Two recent mysteries that I have discovered, Mayday and Winter are both top notch mystery series. Each series is just one season and contain five and six episodes respectively. These are but two of the many great mystery series available on Acorn TV. To access Acorn TV from home, go to www.davenportlibrary.com and click on “Digital Content” at the top of the page. Then, follow the directions under Acorn TV to create an account.
Mayday – A small English village holds its annual Mayday festival and parade where a local teenage girl will be crowned as Mayday Queen. But as the parade begins and the Queen’s float appears down main street, it is empty. The Mayday Queen has disappeared mere moments before the parade is set to begin with only her abandoned bike found near the woods at the edge of town. The locals quickly organize to look for her throughout the area. As the search goes on it becomes clear that many in the village have a motive to do harm to the young girl. We meet a cast of characters, including ex-police officer, her detective husband, a real estate developer, a society wife and a man with mysterious access to heaps of cash. Many of the locals have their own dark secrets that they intend to keep at any cost. The series not only highlights the intricacies of the police investigation but how the villagers react to a suspect being one of their own. Mayday if full of red herrings, shocks and surprises and I highly recommend it for mystery fans.
Winter – Australian detective Eve Winter is on a brief hiatus between cases when she is recruited to come back after the death of a young woman whose body was found at the bottom of a rocky cliff just north of Sydney. Simultaneously, Eve learns of a young girl hospitalized after a hit and run accident. It becomes apparent to Eve that these two cases have everything to do with each other and if she can get the young girl to trust her and talk may be the key to cracking the case. Splitting her time between the murder investigation and gaining the young girl’s trust, Eve and her team discover that there are many powerful and influential residents who will cover the secrets in their past at any cost. Winter is another great mystery series with all the twists, turns and secrets of the past that make the story so memorable and suspenseful.
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham is a great read. Sharp, twisted, vengeful, and delightfully macabre with the sense that justice no matter how dark it might be, is nice when served with a slice a fashion.
The story enfolds in a 1950’s small Australian town called Dungatar where all the characters come together in their dark histories and lucid small town cantor. This is where the story begins and ends with Tilly Dunnage who has just returned from Paris haute couture fashion houses where she’s become an esteemed and accomplished dressmaker, to visit her ailing mother Molly Dunnage. The town and Tilly have a cloud of bad energy encircling the twisted past of Molly’s daughter who was separated from her mother and sent away suddenly when she was a child.
The dark twists and turns of this novel will keep you reading, and the revenge Tilly erroneously or knowingly (reader’s interpretation) bestows upon the town and it’s misfits is quite laughable in a dark and entertaining sense. However, there are moments of sadness sprinkled throughout but overall a good and enjoyable read.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty is a diving read into the secrets that we all have within ourselves and between our families and friends. Cecelia Fitzpatrick stumbles upon a letter written by her husband that is only to be opened after his death. Concerned about what the letter is about, Cecelia wrestles with whether to open it or not, coming to the decision that her husband, whom she has been married to for 15 years and has three daughters with, must have just forgotten to give it to her. His reaction to her admittance that she found the letter makes Cecelia doubt her decision and causes a great chasm to open up between her and her husband, as well as between her and the people she comes into contact with on a daily basis.
Tess O’Leary lives with her husband and young son. Tess started a business out of her home with her husband and her best friend as her business partners. Everything is going along perfectly until her husband and her best friend sit her down to tell her they’ve fallen in love. Shattered, Tess packs up her son and heads to her childhood home, which just so happens to be the same town that Cecelia lives in. Tess must deal with her feelings towards her husband and best friend, her entertaining relationship with her mother, her son’s confusion, and her lingering feelings about returning to her childhood home and the people she grew up with.
Rachel Crowley works at the local school as a secretary. She comes into contact with the parents, children, and teachers on a daily basis, something that drives her crazy because she believes that one of the teachers at the school killed her daughter twenty years ago. With her daughter and now her husband dead, Rachel looks forwards to the days that her toddler grandson comes over to visit. That joy is soon snatched from her when her son and his wife announce that they are moving to New York. Her grandson will be gone too. Rachel doesn’t know what to do.
The letter that Cecelia finds has the power to destroy so many lives, but also the ability to answer so many questions. Secrets run amok in this book and the characters involved struggle with their inner demons on a daily basis. Seeing the interplay between people and how each secret connected really hooked me into the book and had me wanting more.
I have listened to and read almost all of Liane Moriarty’s books, leaving me with a little disappointed that I don’t have very many left! She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. This is due to the fact that her stories are so relatable. The narrator(I’ve listened to all of her books through OverDrive) has a fantastic accent and has a really animated delivery as well. This book is wonderfully crafted and I greatly enjoyed it.
This book is also available in the following formats:
The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, tells the story of Tilly Dunnage, played by Kate Winslet. This movie is based on the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. Tilly is an accomplished dressmaker who spent years traveling the world learning her trade. She has returned to her small Australian hometown in 1950s Australia. Tilly escaped from this town when she was young after being accused of murdering a young boy. She has returned to learn the truth.
Upon arriving back in town, Tilly finds her eccentric mother, played by Judy Davis, living in squalor. She begins taking care of her and scheming to get revenge on those who accused her of murder. Tilly’s way of dressing shocks the town. She begins to offer her dressmaking services to women in town, seemingly as a kindness, but really as a way of revenge. She begins working with the local sergeant, a man who has secrets of his own. Tilly also falls for a local farmer, Teddy, a man who lives next door to her mother and whose family has been stopping in to care for her mother while she’s been gone.
This small backwoods Australian town is rife with secrets and scandals, more than just Tilly’s exile for the supposed murder of her young classmate. More and more of these secrets are exposed as Tilly works her magic on the local women. This movie shows that nothing is what it seems and that everyone has secrets. Tilly struggles to find out the truth, remember her past, and clear her name. I really enjoyed this movie because Tilly clearly knows how to get revenge on people. While she may appear strong, she also has a lot going on under the surface.
Actors taking a turn behind the camera as directors or producers has become increasingly more common. Russell Crowe has joined the ranks of such actors with the 2014 film, The Water Diviner, in which he both stars and directs this Australian historical fictional war drama.
In The Water Diviner, Crowe stars as Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who lives in Australia on a working farm with his wife and their three sons. After the unexpected death of his wife, Connor heads to Turkey in 1919 after the Battle of Gallipoli in order to find his three missing and presumed dead sons in order to bring their bodies home to be buried next to their mother. Connor repeatedly finds obstacles thrown in his way that bar his ability to, at first, make it to Gallipoli and then to get the officials there to even help him find his son. Facing tension from the military and different governmental agencies while abroad, as well as discrimination in Turkey from the locals who see him as the reason why their family and friends didn’t come home from the war, Connor soon realizes that everyone and everything around him has drastically changed from the war and that he must find a way to survive.. Finding his sons becomes Connor’s driving force through life, leading him to discover things that he is not quite ready to know.
This movie is loosely based on the book The Water Diviner by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios. Check out the following books to learn more about the Battle of Gallipoli.
When I grow up I want to be a Lady Detective just like Miss Fisher—elegant, scrappy and clever (words that also describe my other favorite Lady Detective, Jessica Fletcher!) Phryne Fisher has been dancing around the book world for a while (see my review of the first in that series here: Phryne, Rhymes with Briney), but now we can actually see her shake her beaded tassels in a new gorgeously filmed television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, shown in the United States on PBS.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries begins just as Kerry Greenwood’s book series does, with the Honorable Phryne Fisher, played by the seductive Essie Davis, returning to 1920’s Melbourne after being away for a decade or so. While she was away in Europe, Miss Fisher had modeled nude for artists, partied with dancers, worked as WWI nurse, and suddenly came into a title and money. Now that she is returned, Phryne decides that her charm and intellect are perfectly suited to solving murder mysteries around her old hometown. She enlists the help of her gentle butler, her communist chauffeurs/handymen, and her new maid, Dot, who finds herself constantly struggling between good Catholic values and the not-quite-legal-or-virtuous things that Miss Fisher persuades her to do. And of course, the local Detective Inspector Jack Robinson does not find Phryne’s frequent interference in his work amusing (even if he does find her annoyingly companionable.) I loved every episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but what most puts a sparkle in my eye is Phryne’s marvelous wardrobe! The silk kimonos! The slinky wide-legged pants! And the hats oh THE HATS!
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is so charming, fun and sexy while still addressing many historically controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and terrorism—all while giving us a cracking good whodunit. I highly recommend this series to fans of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and those who love history and mysteries 😉
I had long been attracted to the fun and stylish covers of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, and finally decided to give them a try when the Davenport Public Library’s new Youth Services Librarian, Liza Gilbert, told me they were some of her all-time favorite books. There was just one thing I needed to know before I curled up with the mystery series: how oh how do I pronounce the heroine’s first name?! A quick search online and I learned that “Phryne, rhymes with Briney” which is now stored safely in the corner of my brain right next to “Rowling, rhymes with Bowling.”
Phryne Fisher is the classic 1920’s saucy heroine; she has style, confidence, cleverness and unlimited funds to do with as she pleases, and apparently what she pleases to do is fly planes, outwit lovers, and investigate crimes. In Cocaine Blues, the first in her series, Phryne arrives in Melbourne, Australia to check on the condition of an English aristocrat’s daughter who had been writing worrisome letters home to her parents. Although she assumed her Melbourne visit would mostly involve watching a neglectful husband and testing the girl’s food for poison, Phryne quickly finds herself searching out heavyweight cocaine dealers and criminal abortionists (who are assaulting their patients and depositing them in taxicabs to die).
Despite the gritty, heavy subjects of these investigations, Miss Fisher still manages to wear fabulous gowns, make snarky conversation and have a sexy romp or two. Hurrah! My absolute favorite part about Kerry Greenwood’s writing was the fascinating setting of the growing city of Melbourne, Australia during the 1920’s. Since most of my favorite Twenties novels seem to take place in New York, Chicago or London, it hadn’t even occurred to me that other exciting locales were also having a roaring good time. I highly recommend the Phryne Fisher series to those readers who can’t get enough of bobbed haircuts, silk stockings and smart female characters.