I decided in January to try to always have a classic novel or short story collection on the go, alongside one fiction and non-fiction. Continuing as I mean to go on after finishing Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald I picked up The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The Secret Garden introduces us to Mary Lennox an unloved orphan from India who is sent back to England to live at her uncle’s home, Misselthwaite Manor. Misselthwaite is a sprawling estate out on the Yorkshire moors, an alien surrounding for Mary filled with strange food, customs and people. Mary’s only entertainment is her maid Martha and her daily walks on the estate. One day a friendly robin shows Mary the key and door to a secret garden which for ten years has been locked and forgotten.
When we first meet Mary she is spoilt, sickly and rude but I could sympathise as her behaviour was a product of her selfish parents and scared Indian servants. While the move to Misselthwaite is not easy it is for the best. It is wonderful to see the transformation that Mary goes through as she works in the secret garden. She is joined in the garden by Martha’s younger brother Dickon, a friendly and practical lad who has many animal friends. Together they also convince Mary’s sickly, paranoid and depressed cousin Colin out too. As the garden starts to grow and come back to life so do Mary and Colin.
This is the first time I have read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I am no stranger to the story though as I have fond childhood memories of the 1993 film starring the wonderful Maggie Smith. I am pleased to say I found this just as charming as the film if not more so. I thought The Secret Garden was well-written with a realistic childlike voice, fears and wonders. What perhaps made it more charming than the film was the lack of opposition. The film portrays nearly all the adults as against the children whilst in the novel it is the children’s own fears and troubles they have to fights against. Making this an innocent and personal journey for Mary and Colin which I liked.
The Secret Garden is a charming children’s classic. I highly recommend to those interested in reading English classics. This is my 28th read off my Classics Club list. Great read.
Have you read this? Enjoyed the film?