I received this book a few months ago, was intrigued by the cover and read it straight away. The discipline level it takes to not blog the '09s until '09 is pretty high. But since I am trying to play by the rules, I waited. It took me until almost the end of January to realize that I have a pile of stuff to get blogging about!
Verna, Carly, Aunt Maude and Papa have just moved into their new home on the grounds of an asylum. Papa is a well known psychiatrist, and he has very strong views on the treatment of the mentally ill. He is very happy to move his family to be among somewhat like minded doctors. The asylum and its grounds are a wonderful playground for the girls. The grounds and gardens go on and on, and there are many places to explore.
Sour Aunt Maude is the only one who is against this move. She is, after all, the sister of Isabel...the girl's mother and Papa's wife who passed away 2 years ago. Aunt Maude was against selling the house, against living on the grounds of the asylum, and most definite against having one of the patients keep house.
Eleanor is a patient, and it is her job to cook and clean for Papa's house. Aunt Maude is not kind in her treatment of Eleanor, and even though Eleanor's cleaning is impeccable and her food is delicious, Aunt Maude always seems to find fault. Imagine Aunt Maude's feelings when it becomes apparent that Verna and Carly prefer Eleanor's company to her own, and her brother-in-law appears smitten with Eleanor.
Gloria Whelan has written a story that explores not only family ties, but the historical treatment of the mentally ill, and she has done it in an incredibly accessible manner. The unlikable Aunt Maude struggles mightily with her sense of decorum and propriety, and it is apparent that she honestly thinks that she knows best. Readers will feel their heart strings pulled to the limit as Eleanor falters in her recovery and is misunderstood by her own family, due in large part to the meddlesome Aunt Maude.
Quietly poignant, The Locked Garden's descriptive language, and time setting of the early 1900s will find readers in fans of Creech, Jocelyn, and MacLachlan, among others.