Book Review of The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

Posted April 18, 2013 by Kara in Lyn / 6 Comments

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: 
February 28th, 2012
Young Adult
I own a copy

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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 stories, 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.

Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.

Review: It has been a long time since I have read The Secret Garden, and I suppose I will have to reread it to follow up on the heels of this book.  I did remember enough of the classic story to be able catch the references in Potter’s book. The Humming Room is a modern reboot of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 story, heavily borrowing from the same formula of the original children’s book.  Potter takes great care to add in her own elements of friendship and mystery to set the book apart and prevented the story from becoming another knock-off of a classic.

Roo’s character holds a certain charm from the start.  Potter has to be applauded for her ability to hit right at the heart of the subject instead of mucking up the story with unneeded emotional descriptions and attempts to shove the protagonist down your throat, insisting that you will just fall in LOVE with the main character.  Forcing me to like a person has the same results in fiction that it does in real life – it isn’t happening. Ever. I was relieved to find the sap deleted from the start. It is worrisome when I find small children in children’s novels.  The sugary sweetness tends to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  Gooey just doesn’t work for me.  Potter also relies on the other strong characters to drive the story along, including the supporting male role of the story. Jack, oh, Jack, how I wish you had been given more depth to your entire character.  I adored Jack’s place in the book to the point that I felt frustrated by his short appearance in the story. Potter could have easily gone deeper with the main guy.

The setting was absolutely beautiful as well.  The prose and description seemed to flow in a light, natural manner, and carried a very provoking and meaning message with a light touch.  The premise told a grueling story at times.  The author, thankfully, handled the difficult and horrifying portions with care and empathy.  I have the highest praise for Potter for creating a tough story with some adult themes, and spinning it into a touching and downright sweet book.

This book was short, sad to say.  Potter did her magic and treated the approach with grace, but I do feel that the book could have been longer by focusing on the background stories of some of the other characters.  As it stands, however, the book is lovely, and I believe this is a must-have for anyone looking to update their collection of old and new stories.

5/5 Dragons

Buy The Humming Room from Amazon

6 responses to “Book Review of The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

    • I also think you’d enjoy it, Wendy! I LOVE The Secret Garden, and I loved this retelling as well–it’s really well done. I’m so happy to see you enjoyed it, Lyn. I agree that I wish Jack had been more fleshed out, but I loved prickly Roo and the setting was captivating.

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