Every summer I bring home a bag or box full of books from our school library. I spend the summer reading so that I have plenty of recommendations for the kids when school starts back in the fall. My first read for the summer was The Humming Room by Ellen Potter. The description caught my attention when I was doing book orders this past year, and I found a book trailer that caught the kids’ attention when I showed it at school. So, with my interest piqued and the book finally back on the shelf, I decided to give it a try. It is billed as being inspired by The Secret Garden, but since I’ve never read it (don’t judge me), I couldn’t tell you. There is a garden (sort of) and the garden is secret (and holds a secret of its own), but short of that I can’t tell you if the stories are similar or not.
Roo is twelve years old, but small for her size. She has spent much of her life hiding in small spaces, which is a habit that actually saved her life the night her father and his girlfriend are murdered. Roo is sent to live with an uncle she never knew she had on an island in a mansion-sized home that used to be a children’s hospital. She is told to not ask questions and to never go into the East wing of the house (which, just like it did for Belle in Beauty and the Beast, makes Roo want to go just to find out why she shouldn’t). Roo is told that her uncle is seldom home and that she shouldn’t bother him when he is, but she happens to go by his study one afternoon and sees a doctor treating a bite on her uncle’s cheek. Who or what could have wounded her uncle? Roo’s explorations uncover the old girls’ dormitory, and while there she hears a strange humming coming from somewhere, but she can’t figure out from where. In addition to the strange humming in the house, Roo is fascinated by the strange boy she glimpsed floating down the river on an ice floe. Violet, a girl who works for Roo’s uncle, tells Roo the story of the Faigne, a water creature that the river people tell stories about. Could the boy she saw be the Faigne? And what of the stories that Roo hears about the mysterious death of her uncle’s wife? Could the mysterious uncle who took her in actually be a murderer?
The story is billed as a ghost story, and there is some allusion to a ghost, but the ghost never makes an appearance in the story, so I don’t really consider it a ghost story. It is a good story about bringing people and things back to life (not literally raising people from the dead, though). Roo has a unique kinship to nature, and even though she says she doesn’t like people, she has an ability to transform people as well. I thought that the ending was a bit rushed. There is a gap in time within the story between the climax and the denouement that I just felt needed something, can’t say just what, but something. While this book will not make it onto my list of recommendations to students who are looking for a “scary story”, I will recommend it to those who are looking for something more along the lines of a mystery.