Grieving her mother’s death, Mari Lennox travels to Kyoto, Japan to take photographs of Yanagi Inn for a client. As she explores the inn and its grounds, her camera captures striking images, uncovering layers of mystery shrouding the old resort—including an overgrown, secret garden on a forbidden island. But then eerie weeping no one else in the inn seems to hear starts keeping her awake at night.
Despite the warnings of the staff, Mari searches the deep recesses of the old building to discover the source of the ghostly sound, only to realize that her own family’s history is tied to the inn, its mysterious, forlorn garden . . . and the secrets it holds.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn!
I was drawn to this book because of the title and the cover and I was happy to find the content was just like it said on the tin. A retelling of The Secret Garden for adults and the modern age, I do have to admit I loved The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn more than the classic it was inspired by.
Mari Lennox is a professional photographer who is offered a grant to photograph Yanagi Inn in Japan and in this way save it for posterity. Mari is grieving the death of her mother, she has many unresolved issues, and leaving Chicago to return to the country she spent her early childhood is just what she needs.
However, strange things are going on in Yanagi Inn. It seems to have been somewhat neglected over the years, its gardens even more than the resort itself, there are no other guests, there is an air of mystery surrounding the owner of the inn and one member of staff is often downright hostile. And then Mari wakes up to a girl weeping in the dead of night.
The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn is a ghost story that is, for me at least, more on the eerie side than on the scary side. I fell into the story like a little origami crane that has been straightened but finds its folds again without hesitation. The writing is vivid and beautiful, and I felt like I was really there in Japan, in that overgrown garden, with a gorgeous crane flying overhead.
All the questions that were raised throughout the story, all the mysteries that were hinted at, they drove me mad. I had theories and I wanted to know if they would pan out (for the record: most did!). However, first and foremost The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn is a story about grief, processing that grief, and healing. I loved witnessing Mari’s journey, and seeing how it helped other people as well. I do feel that nature has a very restorative power, and it’s something that I always appreciate in books, so I loved seeing how much restoring the secret garden to its former glory restored Mari’s mental health.
I had a great time with The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn. An accomplished debut, it is such a rich yet serene story, told from a love of nature and landscaping and with the utmost respect for all aspects of Japanese culture. I would highly recommend it to lovers of gothic mysteries and (Japanese) gardens.
The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn is out on 25 October in hardcover and paperback and on 15 November in digital formats.
Thanks to CamCat Publishing and Henry Roi PR for the eARC. All opinions are my own.