All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky by Robert Newton

on March 7, 2017

Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky
Robert Newton
Penguin Books AUS
2017, 219p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

{Blurb from the publisher}:

Living in the commission, Lexie is left to fend for herself. Her mother is mostly absent, out searching for something to help her forget the tragic death of Lexie’s dad.

But then after witnessing the aftermath of a shocking incident, Lexie finds solace in the most unlikely of places – in a troubled old man called the Creeper. A chance, life-saving encounter on the commission’s roof seeds a friendship between the two, and when they enlist the help of Lexie’s friend Davey, the three set off on an epic journey; one that will change their lives and the lives of those around them.

I’m in two minds about this book. On one hand, the writing is really lovely and the way in which Lexie befriends Mr Romanov is very beautifully done. On the other hand, there are a bunch of things that I can’t buy into and so it made it a bit hard to truly sink into the story.

Lexie lives in a block of housing commission flats in Fitzroy. Her mother is a junkie, always searching for her next fix and dodging appointments with the Department of Human Services who are understandably concerned about the care (or lack of it) that Lexie is receiving. Her mother regularly leaves Lexie alone and it’s a struggle for Lexie to scrape together the money to go and buy things like milk, bread and eggs at the local corner store. She’s friends with Davey, a boy who also lives in the building. Davey’s father is in jail and Lexie’s has passed away. Lexie clings to her memories of her father, him pretending to camp in her bedroom with her, telling her she could go anywhere in the world she wanted to. She always chose Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.

One of the first scenes in this book is incredibly disturbing and I’m not sure what it says that I felt more affected by it reading it then anyone who witnessed it in the book. Some seemed to find it amusing and even Lexie herself, although saddened by it, doesn’t seem to be too adversely affected which I found interesting. The way in which Mr Romanov is treated by several other residents of the building is very judgemental – no one knows anything about him but they make assumptions, give him a nickname and torment him. Even now I can’t think of what happened at the beginning without getting quite sad about it and how something innocent was used in order to torture a person for no real reason other than the fun of it.

Lexie’s complex character is the highlight of the novel. She actually copes relatively well with her mother’s addiction. She wants her to stop of course, longs for her to but she still manages to function and keep things going. She checks to make sure her mother is still breathing, waiting for the day when she won’t hear that breath, which is a terrible thing for a 12/13yo girl to be experiencing. Her compassion for Mr Romanov is wonderful too, she doesn’t really take no for an answer in helping him and she’s probably the first person to really speak to him, to ask him questions about himself in a very long time. She can also be quite bossy, very assertive, even a bit selfish but at the same time, comes across as very vulnerable and needing a lot of love.

After some disastrous moments, Lexie feels the need more than ever to get to Surfers Paradise for real, perhaps she feels it will be a way to reconnect with her father and also lay him to rest in her mind. The three of them embark on a trip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and this was kind of the part I had problems with because I have done similar trips to this in the past and I struggled with an elderly man who hadn’t driven in twenty years (with a car that had only been started once every two weeks for probably the same amount of time) doing this. With two kids in tow. Nevertheless, I do love the idea of a road trip and given that I’ve done basically 4/5ths of this one, I was interested to see how it went.

Unfortunately, I feel as though the book actually lost its way a little when they were on the trip. Making side trips, evading authorities, as well as several implausibilities just made it seem like it floundered a little. I did enjoy the bond between Lexie and Mr Romanov and found Mr Romanov to be a very interesting character. I was glad he met Lexie, who was someone who would care about him after probably having years of no one following a personal tragedy. This book made me think about people who fall through the cracks or who are vilified unfairly for no reason other than the fact that they’re a bit different.

I really enjoyed parts of this book. I just found the road trip itself required the reader to really put aside some doubts and believe in some pretty far fetched things and for me, I wasn’t really able to do that.


Book #43 of 2017


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