With a new season comes a new read. To welcome Spring time, I thought The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett would suite the new season just fine. The Secret Garden has been on my TBR for quite some time now, so I finally got around to becoming reacquainted with the story.
If you're thinking of revisiting The Secret Garden or stepping foot inside for the very first time, let me recommend first baking up a batch of these Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins. They will be a great table side companion as you settle into the story.
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Marry Lennox is a ten-year-old girl living in British India with wealthy parents. She is neglected and unloved by her parents and is cared for by servants. A cholera epidemic breaks out and kills Mary's parents. Now orphaned, she is sent to England to live with her uncle in Misselthwaite Manor.
While initially a spoiled child and upset by her new surroundings, Mary learns of a secret garden and makes it her goal to find it. As time passes, her ill manners begin to soften and she learns to enjoy her new surroundings and the people in her company.
One night, Mary hears a cry and decides to follow the sound. Surprised by what she finds.
“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done--then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
I can still recall watching and rewatching the 1993 production of The Secret Garden as a child. Back then, I had a bit of interest in the mysterious. Well, honestly I still do, but even then I just adored the idea of being able to spend the day away in a perfumed secret garden with a red robin to keep me company. As I read The Secret Garden novel, scenes of the 1993 movie adoption flashed in my mind as the story unfolded. It was thrilling to revisit the story as an adult and draw new conclusions.
The Secret Garden was first published over ten issues of the American Magazine in 1910 through 1911. The story was then published in August 1911 as a novel. Opening with Mary Lennox, a ten-year-old girl, living in India with her wealthy parents. Spoiled, lonely and unloved, Mary's parents want nothing to do with her, and she is left in the care of the household servants. A case of cholera breaks out and her parents meet their demise.
Now orphaned, Mary is sent all the way to England to live with her uncle in his large countryside home, Misselthwaite Manor. Once again, Mary finds herself in the guardianship of someone who is unloving and is cared by the household servants.
However, the manor is different from her previous home. Here, as she becomes acquainted with her surroundings, she starts to grow healthier and happier. She witnesses growth and renewal in her surrounding landscapes while finding renewal in herself. With the help of her new friend, Dicken, Mary is able to assist her cousin, Colin, in overcoming his stubbornest as well.
Since the story is set in a household there aren't as many characters as you would expect to find in a typical novel. The main character, Mary Lennox, starts off as a stubborn girl that is used to getting her way and doesn't care so much for other people. She claims the fresh England air and her surroundings full of foliage gives her the will to eat and "fatten up" to grow stronger. Overtime she becomes happier and starts taking a liking to those around her.
The first person Mary starts to like is her maid Martha Sowerby who is friendly, hard-working and has a thick Yorkshire accent. Martha has a 12-year-old brother named Dicken who becomes one of Mary's closest friends. He spends most of his time outdoors and is what they like to call an "animal charmer".
Colin Craven, Mary's cousin, produces the largest transformation in the story, not just mentally but also physically. Colin and Mary can relate in having unloving parents and being cared for by servants. Being as every bit as spoiled as Mary was, he eventually finds his own zest for life with the help of Mary, Dicken and The Secret Garden.
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Writing Style & Tone
The Secret Garden is considered a classic of English children's literature. Naturally, the sentence structure and plot of the story is not overly complicated while keeping younger readers in mind. The story displays neglect, and mouthy children, but generally evolves into a more positive note of over coming struggles and self-limiting beliefs.
Likes & Dislikes
The thing I enjoy most about this story is one of the underlying themes of what a person can accomplish by having the right mindset. Throughout the story, we witness Mary and Colin both undergoing mental transformations, from believing the world had nothing to offer them and that they were unlovable to learning to how to make "magic" happen for themselves, loving themselves and loving one another.
The main thing I did not like about the novel was how stubborn and selfish the adults were besides the maid Martha. At times, it seemed as if the way the children were treated could have been considered child abuse. Perhaps life hardened the adults in the story so much they forgot how to be soft towards a child.
Recommendation & Rating
I recommend The Secret Garden to readers young and old. The story is a great reminder of the magic of a positive outlook and will leave any reader wanting to get out and visit a garden.
I rate The Secret Garden five out of five stars!
About the Author:
Frances began her writing career at the age of 19 to help earn money for the family by publishing stories in magazines. Years later after becoming married and having two children, Frances started writing novels. Eventually becoming a popular writer of children's fiction and adult romance.
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