Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

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. 

The downside of having writers as friends is that sometimes they want you to actually read what they’ve written—which can lead to some very awkward conversations. And just because Jonathan Auxier’s gotten the old double-nod, now, from a prestigious, founded-forever-ago New York publisher, that doesn’t mean his new book, The Night Gardener, would necessarily turn out to be awesome.
Fortunately for everybody involved, though, it did.

Now that I’m going to tell you to rush out and grab a copy, however, I should say that it’s not as though Auxier and I are bosom pals. Back when we were undergraduates together, Jonathan was just this quirky guy wandering around in one of those umbrella hats, saying strange things and performing dark magic with that yo-yo of his. I mostly knew Jonathan because I took a mess of visual art classes from his mother, a likewise-divergent thinker who insisted I explore the world at whatever weird angles I could imagine. So while Auxier and I weren’t all that close, I still knew to expect something strange out of his mind and pen. I was not disappointed.

The Night Gardener is a cracking good tale, yes. It is that rare instance of a book that neither panders to the young reader, nor patronizes her by presuming to shield her from the darker realities and more uncomfortable questions of life. It is an excellently creepy story, with plenty of truth-moments woven in for the enjoyment of literary enthusiasts young and old.

Good art exposes the self, and a good writer uses words as an honest reflection of their internal landscape. Jonathan Auxier has a unique internal landscape, and the linguistic fluidity to share it with us—to offer us an open window into the odd mind of a chap whose stories are bound to keep surprising us in pleasant ways, time and time again.

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Josh Barkey is an artist and writer. You can find a grotesque amount of his work over at

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