FAQ > The Forgotten Garden > The Forgotten Garden has some marvelous parallels with The Secret Garden; Frances Hodgson Burnett even makes an appearance as a guest at a garden party. Did that book inspire portions of your story, o
The Secret Garden was one of my favourite books when I was a little girl. Along with stories like The Faraway Tree and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it's one of many classic childhood tales in which children escape from the adult world to a place in which their imagination is allowed free rein. However, it wasn’t my intention to reference The Secret Garden when I first started writing TFG.
In fact, The Forgotten Garden (which was called The Authoress until the final draft!) began with a family story: when she was twenty-one my grandmother's father told her that she wasn't his biological child. Nana was so deeply affected by this knowledge that she told no one until she was a very old lady and finally confided in her three daughters. When I learned Nana’s secret, I was struck by how fragile a person’s sense of self is and knew that one day I would write a story about someone who experienced a similar life-changing confession.
When I began to write about Nell, I knew that her mystery was going to lead her to an English cottage but the other details were hazy. It was while I was auditioning English locations for my book that I came across mention of 'The Lost Gardens of Heligan' in Cornwall. My interest was piqued and I began reading everything I could find about this place: a grand country estate with astounding gardens that had been locked and forgotten after its gardening staff were killed during the first world war and the owners moved away. When it was rediscovered in the late twentieth century, nature had reclaimed the estate but the bones of the garden lay deep beneath the overgrowth. This story really fired my imagination and I knew that I'd not only found my location--Cornwall--but that I would also need a forgotten garden in my story!
I was also eager to play with nineteenth-century gothic conventions in The Forgotten Garden. I adore books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and I wanted a gloomy old house, wicked aunts, secretive servants, hidden identities, mysterious whisperings—the lot! But when my garden grew walls, I suddenly remembered The Secret Garden, and with my theme of fairytales and storytellers and the vital role that such things play in a child’s imagination, I couldn’t resist introducing parallels (including a walk-on role for Frances Hodgson Burnett). It was a way of referencing my own childhood influences—Enid Blyton and the Famous Five get a couple of nods throughout, too!—and was a lot of fun.
Last updated on December 21, 2009 by Kate Morton