Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Secret Garden


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

9 comments:

sharonluvscats80atyahoodotcom 12:48 PM  

I remember the 87 movie too. This is the first book I remember reading in school. I reread it last year but I have yet to get my hand on a copy of the 87 film.

ellsworth 3:04 PM  

The Writer read this book as an adult, too. Though it's been relegated to the nursery, like fairy tales, it was published as an adult book. A departure for Burnett's "beautiful child" fare. There are lots of gardens in her real life. I love this book because the "magic" is truly real. And Dickon is a bit too much of a Pan-figure.

Debi 3:16 PM  

This is one of those books I've long meant to read, and yet still haven't. :( One of these days, one of these days...

Beth F 4:12 PM  

This was one of all-time favorite childhood books. My mother read this to me when I was about 4! And I've read it many times since. I remember loving the idea that the robin showed Mary where the door to the garden was. I wanted a to find a secret garden all my own. I haven't seen the movie--I'll have to check it out.

Josette 12:06 AM  

I've watched the 1993 version on TV. The DVD is kind of hard to find. I really liked the show and want to buy it so that I can watch over and over again! And no, I haven't read the book yet.

Anonymous,  8:19 AM  

Ah, this was a favorite of mine as a child, and it still sits on my shelf begging me to read it again. Thanks for the reminder.
:)
Nancy Viau
www.nancyviau.com

Jennie 1:56 PM  

I don't know how many times I've read this book. I've been such a lifelong fan that I've refused to see any of the movies.

The musical, however, is very good, which I wasn't expecting.

The Khaje Khronicles 4:37 PM  

I read this book about 16 years ago and loved it! I need to re-read it though, because it was soooo good.

bigskygirls 11:12 PM  

Wow, I shoved this book to the back of my "to be read" library at some point because I didn't like the movie when I was younger. I don't even remember why I didn't like it, but now I think I might give this book a shot! Thanks for the review and giving a little insight into the pop culture versions too. I may even have to eventually rewatch the movie just to catch Colin Firth ;)

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