3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Elizabeth Gordon is a best-selling author who decides to buy the Cowdry Estate in the English countryside. She fell in love with the mansion and, in particular, the gorgeous garden. Much to her displeasure, however, the garden comes with more than beautiful flowers: there’s a mysterious live gnome who never speaks, has no name other than "Ugly," and can stand perfectly still for hours while staring North. Having served the Cowdry family for generations, he holds a life estate allowing him to live there until his death. What’s the story behind this peculiar man, and will Elizabeth manage to get rid of him?
Jay Atkinson’s Garden Gnome Adventures is a horror and supernatural novel with a heavy emphasis on psychological elements. We follow the Gnome’s life from 1872, when his father died and he applied for a job in the Cowdry Estate, all the way to 2017. How in the world did he live so long? Well, you’ll have to read to find out.
Though the book pretty much only focuses on the Gnome as a character, it more than makes up for it by taking us on a deep, fascinating mental journey. The Gnome’s simplistic worldview and single-minded devotion to work come from the same place as the twisted darkness inside him. He’s grown up not knowing how people relate to each other outside of power dynamics, nor can he understand his own feelings and desires. He literally doesn’t have the words to describe complex thoughts, which illustrates how language affects cognition: "The boy did not think in words often. The voice in his head was a harsh cursing horrible thing. It was incapable of thinking what he wanted to think. The words for what he wanted to think, he had never heard and did not know them." This makes for a very compelling character.
In general, the writing does a good job conveying a chilling atmosphere and portraying the Gnome’s inner struggles, but there are some issues. The book doesn’t seem professionally edited, as it features many typographical and grammar errors, not to mention some awkward sentences and odd uses of punctuation. Also, the chapter "Spring 1973" is likely supposed to be "Spring 1873" instead.
Garden Gnome Adventures is a short but rich story featuring a sympathetic and complex protagonist, historical elements, and intriguing supernatural phenomena. It’s an immersive, though certainly not light-hearted, experience that should appeal to fans of dark stories. Sadly, due to the poor editing, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars.
The novel has plenty of profanities, heavy topics, sexual content, and gruesome scenes, so it’s unsuitable for young audiences and readers with a queasy stomach. On the other hand, if you enjoy psychological narratives that explore twisted characters, you might want to give it a try.
Garden Gnome Adventures
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon