Book Review: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is one of those books I’ve been wanting to read for ages. It’s an endearing story about two lonely and spoiled children who slowly discover how much better life can be if they decide to explore the gardens. 

The Secret Garden is, of course, a children’s book, but I had never read it as a child. One of the pleasures of reading it as an adult is to enjoy the simple, easy-to-read, style of it. The simple style, though, hides an intricate story with more than one mystery, characters with complex psychology and concealed themes. 

Burnett, I felt, shows considerable storytelling skill in choosing when to say very little and when to let the story bloom with details. I also appreciated her grasp of the speech and mannerisms of the child characters.

-Short Story-

Mary Lennox grew up in India to be a lonely, ugly and spoiled child with a temper so bad not even her parents wants to see her. An outbreak of cholera leaves her an orphan, and she is sent to her uncle’s house on the Yorkshire Moors. Slowly Mary comes to understand Yorkshire is very much different from India, and she has to start doing things on her own. She starts exploring the house and the gardens, but both are full of secrets… Her uncle keeps himself locked up after his wife died, and a lot of the nearly one hundred rooms in the mansion are locked up as well. And at night she sometimes hears the sound of another child crying… Who is making that sound? And why is one of the gardens locked?

-Thoughts-

I felt one of the strong themes of the novel was of the need to have space of one’s own. Mary has lived surrounded by carers and servants with little privacy, no space, no need or ability to keep secrets and no awareness of her own personal failings and how they might be related. The garden allows her room to develop unguided, unhindered and unaided.

There is the sense here that to have wealth and class are not only privileges but are also confining. Character, like the mind, the body or a garden needs to be worked, nurtured and maintained in order to develop and grow. Combining these, the healing power of nature and of rebirth is also one of the main themes of the story.

There is something about Mary’s and Colin’s transformation that is soothing to the soul. The remedy to their ailments is so simple and yet so profound. Today’s society has lost its connection to nature and to a simpler lifestyle, but the benefits of such cannot be denied. The pleasures of life are numerous, but we have to take the time to notice them. Happiness truly is as simple as good friends, good food, and fresh air.

If you have not had the opportunity to read The Secret Garden as a child, all is not lost. It is one of those novels that loses nothing over time. In fact, as our lives become more complicated and stressful as we get older, The Secret Garden becomes more than a children’s novel but rather a cue to take a step back and remember the uncomplicated truths which make childhood so special. It opens the reader’s eyes to the magic that exists all around us all the time.

The Secret Garden is an interesting novel where we see the different characters slowly change and behave like better children. I enjoyed the natural element in the story where the flowers and plants in the secret garden are helping them grow stronger as well. Definitely recommended for both young and old, and who knows, it might even stimulate children to play outside more. A great story for children that will hopefully inspire them to explore the world outside!

The Secret Garden is a wonderful reminder of the healing power of nature, laughter, and love. It is an affirmation of the existence of magic as well as simply a beautiful story. The lessons told within are simple and yet profound and appropriate for everyone. This is anything but a children’s story.

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