Review: The Wind In The Wall by Sally Gardner. Illustrated by Rovina Cai.
Tap – tap – tap.
A young man has waited out the years, trapped inside the walls. He was once, long ago, a gardener for the Duke of Northumberland. The young man and the Duke shared an admiration for the amaryllis, and the young man had hoped he would rise through the ranks to become Head Gardener.
Then the pineapple reached Britain. The gentry were besotted.
Pushed aside, the young man watches as a stranger appears at the house with claims to charm the pineapples. The young man knows a charlatan when he sees one, and yet he wants to know the stranger’s secret. What he witnesses has consequences that will last for centuries.
A subtle and touching ghost story from Sally Gardner.
The setting of the old estate is made magical by the knowledge that a man became trapped in the walls for centuries. Sally Gardner’s stories often feel this way – as if we know the setting intimately and yet at the same time we know nothing at all, because anything might happen. The result is that we are firmly in the hands of the storyteller as we wait for all to be revealed.
What the young man discovers will stay with the reader for life. The harmony between the words and the pictures, especially at this moment, is stunning.
The story is something between a ghost story and a time-slip. The young man is left haunting the walls long after the other characters have gone.
If you fancy a ghost story this autumn but want something free from gore and gimmick, this one is for you. My favourite kind of ghost stories are rooted firmly in real-life stories (albeit with the occasional pinch of magic thrown in). The terror doesn’t necessarily have to come from the undead, and it certainly shouldn’t come from the fact that ‘it’s a ghost’ alone. The Wind In The Wall ticks all my boxes with its strong back story and the chemistry between the characters.
Rovina Cai’s illustrations tell the emotional story. The passion on the protagonist’s face as he tends the amaryllis is replaced with creeping darkness which begins with the pineapples. The illustrations tell the story by themselves and they add extra layers to the words.
A striking read around Halloween and a timeless story that could be read at any time of year.
Thanks to Hot Key Books for my copy of The Wind In The Walls. Opinions my own.