Burnett, Frances Hodgson. 1911. The Secret Garden.
When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable looking child ever seen. It was true too.
I don't have any clear memories of reading this one as a child. I could have. Or not. But I do remember the movie. This would have been the 1987 movie version (or was it made for TV???) of the classic.
In my investigating just now, I discovered that Colin Firth (yes, Colin Firth) plays a small role in that movie as the adult Colin Craven. Who knew? Anyway, I remember the movie. And I'm sure that I saw it before attempting to read the book. In many ways, the book is very very different from the movie. In other ways, it does get a few things right.
My hesitation from reading the book is that I always remember the movie ending. An ending that left me uncomfortable and unsatisfied. An ending where Dickon's fate is dismal. But I was quite happy and somewhat surprised to find out that this ending--this epilogue is complete nonsense. It doesn't exist except in this made-for-tv-wonderland where we meet Mary and Colin as adults.
Now on to the book itself. I liked it. It was an enjoyable read of some rather unenjoyable characters. Characters like Mary and Colin who are miserable and unhappy and isolated and friendless. Characters that come-of-age and become who they're meant to be. Reading about cranky characters who learn to become decent human beings can be enjoyable now and then. And both Mary and Colin are rather human characters. Dickon their strange animal-loving sidekick always seemed a bit too-good-to-be-true for me. A bit unhuman, unnatural. Not that he's not nice, he's just a bit other.
These two children are very spoiled, very selfish, very disagreeable, very prone to tantrum throwing. And I liked that the book was about how they overcame those naturally horrible tendencies. How though no one "liked" them at all in the beginning, they slowly but surely became liked, became loved, became a part of the greater world around them.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews