Title: The Wind in the Wall
Author: Sally Gardner
Illustrator: Rovina Cai
Published: November 2019
Publisher: Hot Key
Genre: Magical Realism
I received a copy of The Wind in the Wall from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
A beautifully crafted new fairy tale with a dark twist. Be careful what you wish for.
Set in the hot houses of a stately home in eighteenth century England, a gardener falls from grace when the Duke sets him the impossible task of growing prize pineapples fit to show off in high society.
The gardener’s star falls further when he is replaced by Mr Amicus, a pineapple ‘specialist’, whom he believes to be a charlatan and a trickster – but nevertheless miraculously produces fruit to delight the Duke.
Determined to uncover Mr Amicus’s tricks, the gardener sneaks into the pineapple house to uncover the mysterious shrouded birdcage Mr Amicus carries with him. And what he finds changes his life for ever . . .
A cautionary tale with echoes of myth and fairy tale, this bewitching fable will make you careful what you wish for.
When I first requested a copy of The Wind in the Wall by Sally Gardner to review, it was mostly because it seemed an intriguing picture book – its’ cover is stunning, dark and deeply detailed. It looked and sounded like a picture book for older readers, which is something I’m always on the lookout for.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Set in the eighteenth century, in an English manor owned by a Duke determined to have his gardeners grow the perfect pineapple (in spite of the uncooperative environment). The head gardener tries everything he can to grow the pineapples, but all his efforts are in vain until the Duke brings in an outsider who can miraculously produce the fruit. Upset at having been upstaged, the gardener tries to uncover the secrets of the newcomer and discovers that secrets and wishes can be unexpected.
I can’t say I expected this book to be exactly what it was, and so I was pleasantly surprised by this dark tale of the power (and unreliableness) of wishes. Told from the perspective of the gardener, despairing at his lack of success at his task, and growing resentful of his failures and loss of standing, it’s very telling of how people react in situations of great personal stress.
The highlight for me, aside from Gardner’s lyrical writing, is definitely the artwork by Rovina Cai. I’ve read a few books now featuring her illustrations, and The Wind in the Walls has the same haunting quality. With a limited colour palette that brings to life a time long past, the story a bleak look at an impossible task.
Overall, this was a beautifully illustrated cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for and I enjoyed it a lot.