So this is the last book I intend to read that’s meant for the Classics Retold project. By far, The Humming Room is the only retelling of The Secret Garden I know. I’ve read reviews of this book and seeing the positive reactions it received, I confidently believe that I would feel the same way.
Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
Hiding is Roo Fanshaw’s special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment’s notice. When her parents are murdered, it’s her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.
As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn’t believe in ghosts or fairy tales, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.
Despite the best efforts of her uncle’s assistants, Roo discovers the house’s hidden room—a garden with a tragic secret. A secret that must never be known.
By just looking at the cover, readers would immediately conclude that it’s a middle-grade novel. Despite so, I find the cover attractive. It’s cartoonish yet at the same time, drawn in detail. The artist perfectly portrays the young girl’s facial expression of surprise as she discovers something that’s meant to be a secret. Moreover, the font of the book suits the title and the content of the story. I also love how the colors complement one another. The cover is just so eye-catching that it makes me want to grab the book instantly.
Similar to the classic, the book introduces us to Roo’s life at the time she’s about to become an orphan. The story is set in modern period, but the author still maintains distance from settings where technologies are prominent. The places mentioned in the book are quite imaginative and impressive. While Cough Rock Island casts a spooky feeling, it still holds some beauty in it. If there’s such thing as that place, I would want to visit it.
Right at the beginning, I’m already drawn to Roo’s characterization. There’s something mysterious about her that makes me want to know more about her. Her quietness sparks my curiosity with regards to her thoughts and feelings. I guess in some way I can also relate to her. Same as Roo, I prefer being alone and doing my own thing rather than interacting with people. While we’re both introverts, I don’t think I’m as good with plants as her. Roo’s ability to feel the earth’s breathing is just remarkable. This is one of the things she differs from Mary Lennox and I like her for that. Her dynamism certainly allows the readers to see the changes in her personality.
Without a doubt, The Humming Room is a perfect retelling of The Secret Garden. It remains faithful to the core of the classic. The other characters are also at parallel to the original story. But what make this book so unique are the back stories and myths Ellen Potter creates, mixing in some ghost stories and supernatural creatures as it brings the novel to a whole new level of excitement. Even the garden itself is a wishful sight to see. Ellen Potter’s writing style has certainly kept me turning page after page, wanting to find out what happens next. The simplicity of the story does not stop me from enjoying the book. If only this was made longer, I would’ve wanted to read a more in-depth narrative about the old tuberculosis sanitarium for children, Roo’s early life, as well as Jack’s story. Overall, this classic-inspired novel definitely deserves a space in our shelves. You won’t regret it.