“One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children’s literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911.
The plot centers round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in the gloomy Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is a rude, stubborn and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. Once when he’s away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle’s vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven’t heard, spiking Mary’s curiosity. (Goodreads)
I honestly don’t know what took me so long to pick up this book – I’ve been told and recommended reading this book, but I’d never had. Now, I know where they are coming from; I can say with certainty that this is one of my all-time favorite children’s books.
I initially assumed this would be a story of Mary Lennox, a disagreeable, grumpy and haughty child finding a secret garden that has kept shut for as long as ten years and establishing a bond with her uncle, Mr. Craven.
It is an understatement that I was taken aback when I found out this story has got much more depth and many more layers than I had anticipated. I never expected another main character, Collin to be thrown in the book and him to be the center of the book.
Of course, it was Mary who found Collin and moved the story forward for the most part, but I wasn’t expecting the latter half was pretty much all about Mary’s friendship with Collin and Dickon as well as Collin’s growth both in physical and mental sense.
In fact, when I first encountered with Collin’s character, I foolishly wished Collin was out of the picture – I had been enjoying following Mary’s discovery of the garden and her attempts to revive it, I thought I didn’t need any more annoying character who would ruffle my feathers.
Little did I know the story would take such a moving, splendid twist – the last chapter is absolutely fascinating and scintillating. As if the growing friendship between the kids weren’t captivating enough, the author threw in such an amazing story of reunion between a father and his son! Both the father and his son were grief-stricken and their lives are painted with sorrow and despair – ‘dark magic’ so to speak. But as the story goes, with Mary and Dickon’s encouragement on Collin’s part, both of them start to feel ‘hope’ and ‘warmth’ inside them and they began to see the world in a positive light, liberated from the dark magic that has plagued their minds for so long.
The mystical, magical element (which is sprinkled throughout the book but particularly emphasized in the last chapter regarding the ‘calling’) made my heart swell with a warm and fuzzy feeling, the lure of the garden that brings them together… I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. I was literally enamored by this book.
As I mentioned earlier, there are just so many great things about this book and none of my words would do this book justice and I don’t even know where to begin. The story of reconciliation, breakaway from the gloomy past and rejuvenation is moving and fantastic, there are a lot of moments when I was reading it with a lump in my throat, the writing is inexplicably beautiful and striking.
If you have never read this book, which I reckon astronomically unlikely, I highly recommend this book. All the characters, even the birds and animals appearing in this book are vivid and well-fleshed out, and their voices are so loud and clear; the Yorkshire speech may take some getting used to, but it’s so charming and adds an unmistakable, distinct flavor to the book. Everything feels somewhat magical; the garden, the characters, the robin…it’s full of love and the warms of spring after a long, cold winter, I’m sure you’ll love this book once you pick it up. This is certainly a masterpiece that should be passed down from one generation to the next. I really adore this book.
My Rating: ★★★★★