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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic children's book written over 100 years ago, but it's still wonderful to read today.  Many of you have probably read it, seen the movie or at least heard about it, but for those that haven't, I will tell you what it's about...  Mary is a spoiled girl from India who loses her parents to a plague-type disease and has to go live with her uncle in England.  She is skinny, lazy, self-righteous and weak, but her new life on the moor quickly starts changing all of that.  She spends most of her time alone wandering the gardens or even sneaking peeks at the 100+ closed up rooms in her uncle's mansion.  But over time she gets to know a few of the employees and one of the servant's sons becomes her good friend.  It's great to read about the changes to the moor with spring creeping in and everything coming to life.  It's also great to read about Mary growing, changing and basically coming to life herself.  Her new home holds more than one secret and since Mary isn't used to doing what she's told, those secrets don't remain hidden for long and as time passes Mary becomes the one hiding information.  I love the time she spends outdoors, because I got to read about the plants and flowers starting to bloom, cute animals that love her new friend Dickon and the amazing sun and rain that brings all the changes to the moor.  I read most of this book on my balcony sitting in the sun and it was the perfect setting to read such a nature-inspired book.  I would recommend The Secret Garden to anyone who loves nature, animals, coming-of-age stories, England, life lessons, stories of triumph over incredible odds and lovers of classic children's literature in general.

Favorite things:  the imagery that expressed the beauty of spring and summer, the repeating metaphors that tied the whole book together beautifully, Mary and her internal transformation, the emotional journey of Mary's uncle as he learned to look at things with a new perspective, Dickon and his collection of nearly-tame animals, the descriptions of the moor that made me feel like I was actually there, the Yorkshire accent that some of the people spoke in, and I especially loved the secrets in this book.

Criticisms:  the racism (yes, this book was written over 100 years ago, but that didn't erase my shock as I read the less-than-appropriate opinions near the beginning of the book, thankfully there wasn't a lot of that, but I would still warn people to brace themselves if they're going to read this for the first time) and some of the words were unknown to me, so that was a bit frustrating (I'm not sure if it's because of the time when it was written or perhaps it was English slang...).

Overall:  5 out of 5 stars!  I love this book and it's a great one to reread or to enjoy in the spring or summer or even in the winter if you're missing the fairer seasons.  :)

4 comments:

  1. When it comes to this book my mind is playing tricks on me. Did I read it or didn't I? I honestly can't remember... I think I read it - I mean I remember the story line - about 15 years ago, but I don't know if that is because it is such a famous book or because I have actually read the pages. Regardless I think I'm going to have to (re)read it just to be sure. Great review!

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  2. Thanks Bonnie! I was sure I had read it, but it was a long time ago and it felt like a fresh, yet familiar read. :) I would agree with your plans to (re)read it lol!

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  3. I enjoyed this as a child and didn't notice the racism (which is surprising since things like that obviously would stick out to me) but when I revisited it when I was older, I was shocked.

    Thanks for the review.

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  4. Me too! I didn't notice when I was younger either, but my mouth literally dropped open when reading it this time!

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