The Night Gardner by Jonathan Auxier
Amulet Books, 2014; 368 pp
Reviewed by Juliana Amir
In The Night Gardener, Auxier masterfully blends gothic with whimsy, creating a recipe sure to enchant the imagination. Two Irish orphans, Molly and Kip, find themselves in the Sourwoods. They’re desperate for work and awaiting them is a decrepit house with an ailing family. It is uninviting, but the night is cold, Kip is sick, and their stomachs are empty. Molly, a bright girl with a gilded voice, begs Mistress Windsor for a job.
“‘Imagine wakin’ up tomorrow, like you always do…only there’s somethin’ a bit different. At first it’s just a faint sound, a whistle at the back of your ear. The sound gets louder, and you realize: it’s a kettle, callin’ for tea.’ Molly spoke with a hypnotic lilt and behind her voice, you could almost make out the song of the kettle.”
Auxier’s command of language allows the story to read with a cadence that carries readers from start to finish. If you’re looking for a refreshing spin on a Victorian ghost story then this book needs a home on your shelf. Though the pacing in the first half treads more slowly, by the second half the pages fly, sparking the best sort of inner war. The kind where you want to devour the words, but savor them too, so that the story might be kept alive just a little while longer.
The plot revolves around the legend of the mysterious gardener, as well as the dangers of secrets and wishes. Though every character is memorable, Molly and Kip are loveable. There are fantastical elements sure to delight younger audiences, but there are also real struggles, such as the Irish famine and poverty. At times, Molly and Kip were sensible far beyond their years. Given the era, this could be due to personal hardships, or it could be an adult writing about young adventurers, but despite heavy doses of wisdom this book is the perfect read for a late night—especially when the wind is blowing.