"A lost child: On the eve of the First World War, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. A mysterious woman called the Authoress had promised to look after her - but has disappeared without a trace.
A terrible secret: On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell Andrews learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family.
A mysterious inheritance: On Nell's death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold - secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost."
Like many others, I've read and loooved The House at Riverton by this same autor so I was really looking forward to reading her next novel. I admit I had high expectations for it and luckily I was not disappointed, far from it - the book couldn't be better!
The opening scene takes place in 1913, but later on three other stories are intervined: one starts in 2005 when Cassandra inherits the house and decides to explore Nell's background, then there's one that takes place in 1975 when Nell bought the house and went to Cornwall herself to do some research about her parents and lastly there's one that describes Eliza's life; it starts in 1900 and leads up to the opening scene. These different time periods rotate in chapters and each chapter provides some information about the main mystery of who Nell really is and why she was left alone on the boat to Australia.
The story is not only wonderfully written, but also incredibly well-structured so that layers of the intriguing mystery are removed bit by bit, which means that the book is really quite hard to put down as you simply must know what happens next. The writing itself is beautiful and it adds to the story, making it evn more engrossing as you just get completely sucked in into the worlds that Ms Morton created, her writing skills make everything described in the book so easy to imagine. Yes, there were quite a lot of side characters, but I felt everyone was portrayed vividly and contributed to the story, which in itself was easy to follow.
Personally I found the book impossible to dislike in any way as it has everything you could possibly wish for in a great book: an absorbing story with a really intriguing mystery at heart, which is also well presented and features a set of wonderfully portrayed characters. I can't compare it to The House at Riverton as I've read that too long ago to remember it properly, but I can safely say that this was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying novels I've read lately. I'm already looking forward to Ms Morton's next book called The Distant Hours, which will apparently be published in April 2010 - if the same writing skills are employed, then it's bound to be fantastic!
overall rating: 5/5
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 3/5