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Book Review: "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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I think I have mentioned The Secret Garden in a reading list I wrote more than a year ago. I have wanted to speak about it more extensively ever since, and now I have finally found the time to do it.

This is one of the novels I read in my beginnings as a reader, during primary school. On the very first page of my copy, there is a dedication from my aunt, who gave it to me as a present for my ninth birthday. More than 10 years ago!

I believe it to be one of the best children books ever written, not only for the tenderness that emerges from every page but for the important teachings that it leaves us with as well.

But before speaking about it, let me give you a brief introduction to the plot.

Mary Lennox, our protagonist, is a 10-year-old girl who lives in India. Daughter of a rich British couple, from a young age she was kept out of her parents' sight, for they did not wish to have a child. Mary is raised by an Ayah and the rest of the house servants who spoil her, letting her do as she pleases so as not to upset her.

Tragedy will interrupt the course of Mary's life: A cholera epidemic breaks out and in a matter of days ends with most of the inhabitants of the house dying, including her parents. As she has no other relatives, she will be sent to live with her uncle, Mr. Craven, in England.

Misselthwaite Manor is a big and mysterious country house and the owner is seldom there. Years before, something terrible happened: Mrs. Craven had a fatal accident inside her favorite garden.

Ever since then, Mr. Craven detests the house and has a special aversion towards that garden in particular. That is why he decides to close its doors forever and to bury the key. This garden and the mystery that surrounds it will be the one thing Mary is interested in the property.

But, as she will soon discover, the garden is not the only secret Misselthwaite hides.

The sun shone down for nearly a week in the secret garden. Mary loved the feeling that when the beautiful walls shut her in, no one knew where she was. It reminded her of the

fairy storybook she’d read. She felt wider awake every day that passed.

— Frances Hodgson Burnett

Why Should You Be Reading It?

My younger self adored the mystery of the novel: The idea of a wonderful place that nobody is supposed to find; a place where you can go by yourself, the tragedy that surrounded it, the necessity of keeping it a secret. Going into adulthood, it all sounded even more attractive than back then.

The descriptions of the garden were something I liked very much the first time I read the story, because it makes it sound truly magical. I also recall being fond of Dickon's first appearance, when he brings Mary the seeds and they start to work together to make the garden beautiful again.

Nature and plants play a main part, as it is what gives the children the power of change. The regeneration of the garden mirrors the one taking place inside the young cousins.

The author is permanently associating gardening and outdoor activities to health and happiness. She also emphasizes it with Dickon's presence, as this character has a very special bond to nature. He is not only the kindest of the children but also the one who is cheerful and more socially outgoing. It is shown that Mary and Colin admired those qualities.

Inside the garden, the high walls were covered with leafless stems of climbing roses. They were so thick they had matted together. Clumps of rosebushes had grown and spread their branches until they were like little trees. Climbing roses crept up every tree in the garden. They ran all over them and swung down long tendrils like swaying curtains.

— Frances Hodgson Burnett

For the adult reader, other questions might stand out while reading the book.
One of the most important is how we behave with children. Mary and Colin's life are similar in many ways. They are kids raised away from their parents, who have received all the things they could want or need, except for the most important ones: love and attention.

Feeling that you are not wanted, regardless of your age or situation, is painful. Imagine how it must be to grow up experiencing that, and even worse, to receive that impression from your parents, the grown-ups that are supposed to love you and protect you.

Of course, the situation of the characters in the book might be a little peculiar, but there are plenty of different ones in which a kid can be neglected.

In our crazy modern life, where both parents usually have jobs to attend to and come back home feeling tired, it is not uncommon to observe that children do not receive as much attention as they should. Or that they are allowed many more hours of TV or Netflix than would be convenient to keep them entertained and quiet for as long as possible.

I have observed that modern children are exposed to so many stimuli, especially from technological devices, that they are much more observant than we were at their age. I think that this fact, far from making them more independent, makes it an imperative to spend more time with them, talk to them, and help them make sense of all the information they are constantly receiving. I know that a child can tell when you are not paying him attention.

Adults sometimes do not realize how much harm they can cause, and the author invites us to reflect on the topic and make a self-criticism. It also gives us some hope: It is never too late to make things right and to forgive

It is for all these reasons that I find the novel to be so exceptional. The text is light and easy to read, which makes it perfect for young children that are starting, and also for adults that want something short and heart-warming to keep themselves entertained.

I hope you will love it as much as I do.

© 2020 Literarycreature

Comments

Literarycreature (author) from Argentina on September 16, 2020:

I assure you it has made me pretty nostalgic to write it. Books we read in childhood stay with us forever, and allow us to visit those old times for a little while.

I am very glad you like my review. Thank you for your comment!

Nuzhat Tabassum from Bangladesh on September 16, 2020:

There was such an innocence in this book and I believe, in me, when I first read it. I miss those days.

The review is thoughtful and has made me pretty nostalgic. Thank you.

Literarycreature (author) from Argentina on September 14, 2020:

I am glad that you think so! Thank for your comment!

Lora Hollings on September 14, 2020:

This has always been one of my favorite childhood books and when my daughter was 6 years old, we read it together and then it became one of her very favorite stories. I highly recommend it as a wonderful book especially for children. It is a wonderful book for parents to read to their child. It has a great message! Thanks for sharing.