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The Night Gardener: 04/20/21
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is a middle grade gothic horror. Irish siblings Molly and Kip have been sent to an out of the way manor on a small island. The villagers try to warn them away, saying the woods around them are cursed but they press on and make their way to Windsor estate.
Reluctantly they are allowed to stay but only after Molly offers her and her brother's services for room and board only. She has endless work ahead of her as it's clear the woman of the house can't keep up with its upkeep, nor can she afford other help.
Kip whose specialty is gardening is told under no circumstance is he to touch the tree that dominates the estate. It has grown so close to the house to actually be in the walls. The tree will be the house's undoing.
While the overall atmosphere of The Night Gardener is similar to Mexican Gothic by by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020), the nuts and bolts of the narrative draw from a variety of classic sources (all named in the afterword). While reading, I was most drawn to the similarities with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898). The feeling of familiarity is strong enough that I plan to reread the novella soon.
Auxier's novel also has a place on the road narrative spectrum. Molly and Kit are sibling travelers (CC) who have been forced into being itinerant workers after the death of their parents. Their ultimate destination is a place they can call home (66). Their current route is through the cornfield, or more precisely, the tkaronto (FF) as represented by the ever present mildew brought into the house by the maleficent tree.