Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Return to the Secret Garden

Return to the Secret Garden. Holly Webb. 2016 (November). 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The children marched down the street in a long line of twos, and only one of them looked back.

Premise/plot: Emmie Hatton, our heroine, is an orphan. The book opens--in London, 1939--with her orphanage being evacuated to the countryside. All are sent to Misselthwaite Manor. Emmie is upset. You might think naturally so. After all, the children are being sent to the countryside for their safety, in anticipation of London being bombed. It's not just orphans facing this potentially traumatic move. But Emmie is upset by the fact that she can't take "her" cat, Lucy, with her. She's been told that animals are being put down--killed--because there isn't enough food and resources. So to say that Emmie's distraught at the idea of being separated from Lucy isn't that much of a stretch. Life at Misselthwaite Manor is nice enough. She soon finds a DIARY in her bedroom. She reads it: it tells of a lonely miserable girl named Mary. A girl who learned to jump rope. A girl who found a key. A girl who went in search of a a wall. A girl who slowly but surely made friends and found her place to belong. Emmie wants that to be her story as well. So she sets off to find the door. She too finds the Secret Garden. She too makes friends with the gardener, the birds, the flowers. But will she find a family in her new 'temporary' home?

My thoughts: Return to the Secret Garden is written for a much younger audience than the original The Secret Garden, in my opinion. The text is much simpler; the vocabulary much more accessible. Also there isn't as much complexity and depth to the story or to the characters. It definitely is NOT action-driven. I'm not sure I'd call it theme-driven either. But it is very much about belonging and finding a place to call your own. It was nice to revisit some of the original characters. It may not have been the exact book I was hoping for. But it was a pleasant enough, quick enough read.

It would be interesting to see--perhaps as a young adult or adult book--a more direct sequel to the book that focuses on Mary, Colin, and Dickon before, during, and immediately after the Great War, the War to End All Wars. It might prove to be a devastating book--one that you'd have to put in the freezer. But it would be worth least in the hands of the right author.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Joy Weese Moll 4:32 PM  

Seems odd that this book is slated for a younger reader. The pleasure would come from knowing that the diary is the original The Secret Garden. Or, maybe it will work the other way -- give readers a reason to read the original when they get a little older.

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