What is Catherine Morland’s Reading List? The idea came mostly from the fact that I am a huge Gothic fiction/mystery fan. Before I met Jane Austen I devoured books, (and I still do), that I know, if Catherine Morland was real and alive, she would be reading or interested in reading.
It started with one review, and then before I knew it I had a list of thirty I was planning on reviewing. What can I say, other than:
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
So I have been wanting to read this book FOREVER. But every time I would check it out, I wouldn’t get a chance-I’d have too many books checked out, things happened, I’m too busy, etc-and I would have to return it.
Finally the stars aligned and I was able to read it. The book is written for middle schoolers and a quick read-made even quicker by the fact that as soon as I started reading it, it sucked me in.
The book takes place during the Irish Potato Famine and two siblings emigrate from Ireland to England to work at a country estate: Kip and Molly. Molly is older and made the arrangements to work, job they are in dire need of as their parents are dead (something Molly has kept hidden from Kip). Molly uses stories to distract and cheer Kip, who is gifted with a green thumb, but suffers from lame leg.
As they travel to the Windsor manor they get stopped by a gypsy fortune teller who tells them the house they are going to is haunted.
Yes, years ago when the current Master Windsor was a boy something killed his family, he was the only one to survive, escaping to family in London. It was very mysterious and strange, and many believe it to be ghosts, a monster, or something.
Kip starts wondering if there is truth to the tales, but Molly ignores it. It can’t be true, she needs it to be not be true as they need these jobs.
When they get there, the house is nothing like Molly thought it would be. The house is beautiful but dirty and not kept up at all-things look like they haven’t been washed in forever, there is dust and dirt everywhere, etc.
There is also a giant, black, gnarled, tree that is connected to the house, as if it grew into it or the house was built into the tree. Looking at it, it makes both Molly and Kip uncomfortable-although they are not sure why.
The family is very unusual, cold, and greedy. Mr. Windsor stutters, has no gumption, and is a pale dark haired man who is constantly trying to get money. He has a secret study that no one is allowed to enter. Constance is cold and harsh toward the “help” as she calls them, in fact she won’t let Kip in the house as her family might catch what he has and become cripples too (her word). She was used to the fine life in London and misses it. She has a ton of rings on her fingers and always seems to be getting more somehow. Very odd as the Windsor family complains about a lack of funds.
The son Alistair is greedy boy who is always eating candy and is cruel to his sister. But where does he get this candy from. He has dark hair like his father and mother.
Penny is the youngest and is greedy for stories and attention, but otherwise is a good child. She is enthralled with Molly’s copper hair, something she used to have. Molly thinks that is odd, even more so when she sees a portrait of them on the wall-all with bright skin, bright colored hair-nothing like the dour, dark haired, and ghostly pale skin they have now.
Kip starts working in the yard and loves growing things, but still feels unease about that tree. But there are things down in the yard he did not do. Things planted. But who could be doing that?
The longer they stay there the harder it is to leave. At night they have bad dreams and hear something stalking in the night. Penny tells Molly of a night man in the house clomping through and going outside. Molly doesn’t believe her…at first, but then one night, she is sneaking her brother into the house and the two see a man-a ghostly, creepy, scary man who works on the yard but espechially with the dark and disturbing tree.
Then Molly discovers a secret. The tree in the house grants you a wish of your heart-but once given it is impossible to stop going back. Constance Windsor had a ring that was worth nothing, but given before Mr. Windsor made money. He sold it when they needed funds and the tree gave her a copy, and she can’t stop trying to get it back.
Alistair’s favorite memory was when his father and him spent the day together and went to a candy store. He can’t stop getting or eating candy, trying to relive the memory. Penny has special books that are stories about her. For Molly she gets letters from her parents, letters that tell of the same stories she has been feeding her brother.
But Molly quickly learns to be careful for what you wish for as the price might be more than you want to pay. She too finds herself becoming bound to the tree, her copper hair and imaginative self being sucked away as she waits for more letters. Will Molly and Kip be able to save themselves and the Windsor family? Or will they meet their end?
I LOVED this book. It was so spooky and reminded me of other Gothic tales I grew up reading. I espechially loved the imagery of the tree feeding on them, stealing their souls essentially, taking from them and they know it is feeding off them-but they can’t stop it.
It was extremely spooky and creepy-just how I like it.
For more from Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to Secrets of the Heart
For more Gothic Fiction, go to House of Salt and Sorrows