Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Secret Garden (1911)

The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett. 1911. 302 pages.

Mary Lennox is a perfectly flawed heroine. (She's no Pollyanna or Heidi!) Readers meet the newly orphaned Mary, and she's not exactly easy to love being quite spoiled and bratty. One gets the idea that while plenty (in India) have obeyed the young girl's orders (or wishes) none at all have bothered to love her or even like her. So her arrival in England, in Yorkshire, to her uncle Archibald Craven's estate shocks her a bit. But given the right opportunities and circumstances, Mary transforms dramatically. She discovers that life is worth living and that people are worth loving. Her hate melts away the more time she spends outdoors, the more time she spends in the gardens, the more time she spends with Dickon. And she becomes quite the influence on her cousin, Colin, a young misunderstood boy. Colin is quite the tyrant when readers first meet him. He's prone to fits and tantrums. He's all DRAMA. But Mary, well, Mary essentially tells him to grow up! Don't be so ridiculous!

Is The Secret Garden a character driven book? I'm not sure it is. The "Magic" of the "secret garden" is at the center of this one. It is the natural world, the beauty and wonder of Nature, of all growing and living things that makes this book memorable. It is the "secret garden" that helps to transform Mary and Colin. The book itself is constantly singing the praises of Nature, of being one with the natural world, of finding your place within the Magic.

Mary Lennox may not be as sweet and innocent as Heidi, Pollyanna, or even Anne, but, she is memorable in her own way! The way she interacts with Colin is effective even if it might not be the way Heidi or Pollyanna would have done it! And Mary isn't the only memorable character. Colin and Dickon are both interesting characters. Oh, how Mary absolutely idolizes Dickon! Mary isn't as mesmerized by Colin perhaps, but they are so similar to one another in a way. I think that is why Mary is able to help him when no one else can.
“The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books, and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories. Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years, which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite.” 
“One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live... surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.” 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

This was one of my childhood favorites. My mom has an edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor and I love the pictures as much as the story!

hopeinbrazil said...

Lovely review of a book I haven't read in ages.

QNPoohBear said...

I have the Tasha Tudor edition and I adore it. This was one of my favorite books growing up. I like Mary and can identify with her because she's not perky and cheerful, she's not melodramatic, she's just a kid. The wild moors and the magic of the secret garden ways pull me in. I watched the Margaret O'Brien movie on TCM recently and didn't like the way it told the story. To this day, I'm still dying to see a moor and hear the wind cry and I'm always hoping to find a hidden secret garden.

Louise said...

I've read this lovely book twice in recent years, and enjoy it more each time. I wish I'd read it as a child, but sadly I didn't.