Summary: This much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is a Victorian ghost story with shades of Washington Irving and Henry James. More than just a spooky tale, it’s also a moral fable about human greed and the power of storytelling.
The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making. (Summary and image from goodreads.com)
Review: Friends don't let friends read crummy books. It's true. They really don't. I'm super lucky, because one of my dear friends also happens to be a school librarian. She and I have so much time to chat over books while I volunteer in the library (honestly, my favorite volunteer post). She mentioned this one in passing with the warning that nightmares accompanied it. I was intrigued, and since my son was in a spooky mood, I checked it out.
Auxier has built a richly colored, varied, deep world in fewer words than you'd expect. Every character steps out of the page, fully formed and with a backstory you can feel even before it unfolds. His attention to every detail of the book creates such an amazing atmosphere that just enveloped me. The house, the tree -- both integral and main characters -- come with the same attention.
The story itself is fairly straightforward. Two children--possibly orphaned, down on their luck, and starving--are offered work for a family in the forest. They arrive in the village to be shunned for their race (Irish), warned to leave before ever entering the forest, and realize they have no allies, save the bag lady who lives off of her stories. And what stories she has to tell. Of course, the children ignore their gut instinct, enter into service, and start to unravel the mysteries of the house -- why is everyone sick and blanched of color? Who is the man that cones into the house at night? And what is exactly behind that green door?
It astounded me how quickly the spooky and menacing aura of his entire world bled through the pages. It didn't take long before I couldn't put the book down, even if I was a little creeped out. And my friend was right -- nightmares accompanied it. Hers were of the Garden itself -- the silver flowers, the threats, the mounds, and the holes. Mine were of the cupboard -- the threat of a wish fulfilled.
Any book that can make me have nightmares for days afterward deserves a tip of the hat. This is definitely a book that I hope doesn't get optioned into a movie. It couldn't go anywhere but down from here!
Rating: Four Stars
For the Sensitive Reader: This book is seriously creepy. While I'd deem it appropriate for 12+, any younger than that and you might get visitors of the scared and bed-hogging sort. There are also a few murders that are pretty grisly for the intended audience.