The Gardens of Dorr
Lovers in a petrified city
This book can be seen as the magnum opus in Biegel’s sizeable oeuvre. He presents a theme relevant to all times and all cultures – love conquers death – , convincing and often touching characters and an extraordinarily ingenious composition, plus an abundant wealth of language, humour and imagination.
Princess Nevermine’s dearest friend is the gardener’s apprentice, Evermine, but the witch Sirdis cannot bear to see their blossoming love and turns the boy into a flower. For seven long summers, the little princess searches for the lost gardens of Dorr, where the seed from the flower can again grow into a man, her living love. Behind the girl rides the minstrel Jarrick, who acts as jester in the court of the king, ‘because he is such an expert on sadness’. Slowly but surely, he reveals the secret of the seed and, when the last piece of the puzzle falls into place, the wicked witch shrivels up and the dead city of Dorr is green again and there is feasting everywhere. Everyone can start living happily ever after, because Good has once more proved to triumph over Evil. And the proof is a brave young girl, whose motto is, ‘The heart goes forth when reason fails’.
The non-chronological composition weaves a beautiful cloth, into which the story of the lovers and the petrified city are skilfully interwoven as the warp and weft. In contrast to fossilised age is the bloom of youth, but children need not be aware of that. They will be enchanted by the mysterious, terrifying and moving stories and delight at the silly verses and newly-baked words in this great, timeless and ageless narrative.
By Bregje Boonstra