Review | The Garden of Blue Roses | Michael Barsa
Publication Date: 4/17/18
Publisher: Underland Press
Why I Read It: This book was sent to me for free by TLC Book Tours, and was billed as a book suitable for someone interested in gothic fiction, atmospheric horror such as Shirley Jackson, and unreliable narration. Sign me up!
Page Count: 248
Synopsis: From the publisher-
A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn’t care. For the first time in his life, he’s free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.
Or so he thinks.
Milo settles into a quiet routine–constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who’s home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There’s something odd about him–something eerily reminiscent of their father’s most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He’s not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family–and the supposed accident that claimed his parents’ lives.
Opening Sentence: "I was a Greek that night."
My Thoughts: You know the kind of books that immediately make you uneasy? Yeah. Enter The Garden of Blue Roses. I don't often read gothic fiction but the premise sucked me in. The Crane children grew up with a Jack Torrance at the end of The Shining-esque father who believed in fostering big imagination and a healthy sense of fear in his children. (We learn within the first few pages that a hook in their home was once used to hang a human head, you know, for the shock factor). The family grew up in a secluded compound that served both as a writing sanctuary and inspiration for their father’s world famous horror novels. The house and the grounds surrounding it have a personality of their own- but that’s just the house settling, right? Houses don’t have personalities. The Garden of Blue Roses had me questioning everything. You know that Milo is unreliable and damaged from the very beginning. But how could he not be with a veritable madman for a father? He loves to taunt his sister and forces the reader to question how much of his descriptions are skewed. A body is found in woods near their home, and Milo drives himself crazy trying to figure out what could have happened. Barsa was an interesting writing style- it's delicate and the sentences are packed with imagery, but there was enough going on to propel the story forward. All in all, I'm happy I got introduced to this author's debut!
Read Alike: Season of the Witch, Natasha Mostert
Quote: “Every now and then she kept up the pretense of mothering by insisting we eat supper together. I’ve never understood this penchant for masticating as a social ritual. We don’t make other bodily functions like defecation or nose blowing into elaborate occasions of forced togetherness.” I love when masticating is used in a sentence.
Rating: 4/5 - A wonderful, unique and haunting debut!
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