Acquired via BookCrossing 30 Apr 2009 – BookRing

Nell has dim memories of being put onto a boat and arriving in Australia aged 4.  She is seen trying to piece together the mysteries of her background in 1975, and her granddaughter Cassandra has another go in 2005.  Set between these times, 1900 and 1913, and swapping between the UK and Australia, a complex narrative is maintained comprehensibly.

Like everyone else on the bookring, I read this pretty quickly when I got going with it.  I did enjoy it although I guessed the plot pretty quickly.  It isn’t the most literary of works, and I think there were times when the author didn’t know quite what genre she was writing in and got a bit carried away trying to cram all her research it.  The "Secret Garden" parallels were a bit creepy; having read a biog of Frances  Hodgson Burnett, she also started off poor, submitted stories to a magazine when young etc, so I thought Eliza was almost a portrait of her, then in strolls FHB herself… There were also a few oddities – Ruby’s job would be either as curator or as tour guide, there was little filled in about Cassandra’s mother, and what was with creepy Linus, who was not really developed and was a tad stereotypical (damaged man with damaged limb…)

So – hm, I was struggling to put something down about this.  Like her other book, The House At Riverton, I think it was trying to be something it wasn’t, a little.  Readable but a bit, tacky isn’t the word, but not as good as it could have been.  A bit Rosamund Pilcherish, nothing wrong with R.P. but sometimes one is left wanting a little more.  Would make a GREAT holiday read though!