Review Blog

Jun 28 2013

The watcher in the garden by Joan Phipson

cover image

Text Classics, 2013. ISBN 9781922147011
Recommended. The watcher in the garden (1982) by Joan Phipson has been republished by Text Classics for a new generation of readers to appreciate this timeless tale of adolescent angst played out against the backdrop of its uniquely Australian background.
The cover design and the wonderful introduction by Margo Lanagan set the mood for this remarkable tale. The Australian landscape, its beauty and mystery, is represented by the garden which belongs to the blind Mr Lovett and into which stumble the malevolent Terry and the angry and confused Kitty.
Mr Lovett befriends and becomes to depend on Kitty and her descriptions of the garden. His friendship and respect encourages Kitty to examine her own anger and behaviour. The garden brings her peace and tranquillity after she is welcomed by him.
At the same time Terry bears a grudge against Mr Lovett, and watches him as he plots his revenge for perceived slights against his family. Terry and Kitty tread warily around each other but their lives become entwined by the garden and its almost supernatural presence. Both become aware that the garden has a force which bears its influence on them.
In a powerful scene Kitty and Terry physically confront each other and both are injured. When they come to they realise that they have a psychic connection and can feel what the other is thinking. When Kitty is lost and has to stay in the bush overnight, Terry knows where to find her. Are they in a symbiotic relationship?
This connection leads to the penultimate scene when amidst an earth tremor Kitty struggles up the sides of the gorge in order to save Mr Lovett; Terry is there too and the garden plays its part in the drama as it unfolds.
I recommend this novel.
Michael Jongen

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