I started this before we went to Disneyworld but just couldn’t finish it before we left-I stayed up but still had 50 pages left, which was maddening because I was so wrapped up in it, but what a terrific surprise when we got home to be able to pick it up and finish it off. This is a great big fat satisfying book. I’ve really enjoyed talking about it with the friend who lent it to me, too.
The story covers a period of time from Victorian times in London to 2005 in Australia and England. It is not chronologically told though as the story weaves together different threads which, by the end, have revealed the full story and mystery of Nell. We begin with Nell, a 4 year old girl found on a dock in Australia and taken in by the kindly dockmaster and his wife (desperate for children of their own.) How did Nell get there? Who left her there? It’s clear she came on the ship from England, but all alone??? Nell grows up in Australia and we check in on her when she is a young woman on the verge of getting married and her father reveals the truth of her origins to her. This completely changes Nell’s personality and life. Jumping ahead to the future Nell’s granddaughter visits Nell on her deathbed and is told the secret, too. Granddaughter Cassandra sets out to solve the mystery of Nell’s past. The story also includes Nell’s English family’s stories. Oh, and interwoven into it all are original fairy tales by the “Authoress”, who has a connection to Nell. Sounds a bit convoluted, but it’s really not. It’s all neatly put together and very dramatic and exciting. The overall feeling I kept getting though was sadness-there is a lot of unkindness, cruelty, madness, and betrayal going on. It seems like basically every character has had something horrible happen to him or her and while some soldier on others allowed it to ruin them (which I guess is pretty much the way it is in life, right?) Obsession with status and class and love and devotion rule the main characters, making them make terrible decisions which hurt many people.
I definitely want to check out Morton’s other novels.