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It's the year 1900, the dawn of a new century and a chance for a new beginning for Verna and Carlie, whose mother died two years ago. They are headed to their new home—the grounds of an asylum for the mentally ill. Their father, a doctor, has been hired to treat its patients while the girls are under the strict and watchful eye of their aunt Maude. The towering asylum, the murmuring patients with their tormented pasts, the exquisite locked garden at the center of the grounds—Verna perceives forbidden mystery and ...
It's the year 1900, the dawn of a new century and a chance for a new beginning for Verna and Carlie, whose mother died two years ago. They are headed to their new home—the grounds of an asylum for the mentally ill. Their father, a doctor, has been hired to treat its patients while the girls are under the strict and watchful eye of their aunt Maude. The towering asylum, the murmuring patients with their tormented pasts, the exquisite locked garden at the center of the grounds—Verna perceives forbidden mystery and enchantment everywhere. Even Aunt Maude's temper will not keep her from striking out on her own exciting adventures.
But is Verna ready to confront all the secrets and emotions that have been locked within—even those of her own heart?
National Book Award-winner Whelan (Homeless Bird) sets this straightforward and thoughtful story at an asylum for the mentally ill in 1900. Narrator Verna and her younger sister, Carlie, move to a house on the hospital grounds with their psychiatrist father and dour busybody Aunt Maude (the girls' mother died of typhoid). Verna immediately feels a kindred spirit with Eleanor, the cheerful asylum patient who begins working as a maid for the family. Jealous of the girls' affection for Eleanor, Maude grows increasingly vindictive, until Papa is forced to send her packing. Fearing the appearance of impropriety, given that he and Eleanor (of whom he's clearly grown fond) are both single, Verna's father dismisses her, which sends the young woman spiraling into depression. Though overwrought imagery ("Eleanor was always on my mind, a singing bird hidden high in a treetop") occasionally bogs down the narrative and an abrupt, inconclusive ending will leave some readers feeling cheated, Whelan adds authentic period flavor and crafts affecting moments-some in the asylum's locked garden-between the sisters and the recovering Eleanor. Ages 8-12. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Posted April 30, 2012
The book could have taken on a different title, for it wasn't about the locked garden as much as I thought it was, and the ending just sort of, well, ended. I was like, wait, that's the end? Shouldn't there be more? But there wasn't. I liked it anyway. If you like historical fiction that veers off from the normal path, you will too.
Posted by: Lauren Kellie
Posted March 28, 2009
The year is 1900. Two years after the death of their mother, twelve-year-old Verna Martin and her six-year-old sister, Carlie, leave their home in the city. They are moving with their father, a psychiatrist, to an asylum in the countryside that is testing out new ideas for the treatment of the mentally ill. Their strict Aunt Maude, who has cared for them since their mother's death, accompanies them.
Much to Verna's surprise, the asylum is a lovely place, with trees, flowers, and animals. And the patients aren't scary at all. One patient is Eleanor, a young woman who, thanks to the care and peaceful setting of the asylum, has improved enough to work. She comes to work at their house, to cook, clean, and help care for the sisters. Verna and Carlie become very close to Eleanor, and this causes Aunt Maude to become very jealous, which results in terrible consequences for Eleanor's health, leaving Verna to try and fix the situation.
The Locked Garden is a very interesting historical novel for young readers about a topic not much explored in children's fiction - the beginnings of modern mental health treatment. This book is both an interesting look at the subject as well as a touching story about family and friendship. I recommend it to young readers who like historical fiction as well as those readers who have enjoyed other books by the author.
Posted August 2, 2009
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