For my latest reading adventure, I decided to go for a children’s’ classic and chose The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was in the mood for something uplifting and not too taxing and I figured this would fit the bill.
The story follows Mary Lennox, a ten-year-old girl who is left orphaned after a cholera outbreak in India. Mary moves to Yorkshire, England to live with her Uncle Archibald Craven in his home, Misselthwaite Manor. Archibald is all but a hermit and wants nothing to do with Mary. Not that Mary is particularly bothered as she had very little to do with her parents, who didn’t really want her either.
What Mary is used to is being doted on by servants and always getting her way. This has made her an extremely disagreeable, unhealthy child who does not play well with others. Left to her own devices she explores the house and grounds and discovers that there is a part of the rambling gardens that is closed off and hidden, a secret garden if you will, one that has not been touched for ten years.
It’s not the only secret at Misselthwaite Manor though. Sometimes Mary hears crying at night that is explained away as the wind and no one will tell her why her uncle is so sad. Mary becomes determined to get to the bottom of things and also to find her way into the garden.
This is a truly lovely book. Essentially it is about the healing power of nature and friendship and also about mind over matter and how your thoughts shape your experience of the physical world.
The descriptions of the gardens at Misselthwaite are spectacular and it is easy to imagine yourself amongst the beautiful flowers and woodland creatures. I am not really a massive outdoor person but reading this book made me want to go and bask in the sun and watch the world go by. Of course it is winter and I would freeze my tits off but it was a nice thought.
Mary is a great little character; as are the companions she meets in her adventures. There is an argument to be made that the whole story is somewhat over simplified and things are a bit straightforward but it is aimed at ten year olds so it’s easily forgiven. Although The Secret Garden was first published in 1911 I can imagine modern children would still enjoy it and as an adult I found it charming.