When Mary Lennox is left an orphan, stranded in India, she is shipped off to a distant uncle who lives amongst the moors in Yorkshire. For a girl who was used to getting her way in everything, servants to dress her and obey her every command, the lonely house is a great change. She is a bratty child, though that's the result of neglect more than anything else.
When she learns of a secret garden, shut up since the death of her uncle's late wife, she seizes on the idea to discover it for herself. With the help of an ancient gardener, the younger brother of a house maid, and her long hidden cousin, Mary brings the garden back to life and as a result discovers a new life for herself and her cousin.
Back in July of 2010 I bought a few classic books from Barnes & Noble for $1.79 per book. I bought five of them, have read two of them, and the rest have been languishing on my shelves ever since. One of those books, waiting to be read, was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I'm going to admit, right up front, that even though I bought it and planned on reading it someday, I was never in a hurry to do so. If it hadn't been less than two dollars for a hardcover, I probably would not have purchased it that day. I guess I could make some sort of unbiased excuse, but the real reason I didn't feel a fire to read it, I always thought of it as girl's book. Now what that actually means in reality, I have no frickin clue. I know that's not a valid reason to not read a book that many consider a classic, but it's the only one I got. So when Sheila at Book Journey suggested a read-a-long when some of us mentioned on one of her posts hat we haven't read it, I figured I might as well get it over with.
I will even have to admit to finding my line of thinking validated about a third of the way through the book. I even remember telling a friend of mine who loves this book that I felt like such a "girl" while I was reading it. I will even have to go as far as saying, part of me was a little embarrassed to tell anyone I was reading it. Then something a little strange happened. I started to relax and allow myself to put all my preconceived notions behind me. I wish I could tell you what triggered that change in my thinking, but I can't. All I can say is that once I allowed myself to really take in what I was reading, I started to fall in love with Mary and her quest to discover the hidden garden.
I found myself utterly fascinated with the change in temperament and behavior that Mary was undergoing as she started to realize the life may actually be interesting if she gets out and does something about it. With nobody around who was willing to coddle her and tolerate her bad behavior, Mary started to grow in ways that only her changed environment would ever allow. Now granted, the book over simplifies the changes show goes through, giving a lot of the credit to physical exercise in the outdoors. Don't get me wrong, I love being outside. As a kid, I was truly happy camping in the great outdoors, swimming in the lakes of Northern Minnesota, and climbing trees. I understand the benefits of being outside, I just think Mary's behavioral changes are a little bit much for the catalyst that kicked started it.
The other aspect I truly loved was the discovery and transformation of her cousin. Much like Mary, Colin starts off as a whiny brat. His mother died during childbirth and ever since then, he has been coddled and babied in such a way that has left the household in terror of him. He blames himself, but most importantly, thinks everyone else for the death of his mother. He thinks he is going to to die young and has a bag that is deformed. While everyone in the community knows about him, nobody really talks about it. He is hidden in a separate wing of the house, a wing Mary is told to never visit. Because of some mysterious crying, Mary discovers her cousin and sees in him, her past behavior. Because of the friendship that develops between the two of them, they both awaken into the children they should have been given different circumstances.
Now while I really enjoyed and could even say I loved this story, I'm not going to be very good at getting across the way it made me feel. This was a affirmation for me of the magic of childhood and what it means to be accepted by those around you and how important "home" is to your identity. It's a celebration of nature and the benefits of being in sync with your environment. I will also have to admit that had I read this as a kid, I would have loved it, and never admitted to reading it. Now as an adult, I will proudly proclaim that not only have I read The Secret Garden, but I fell in love with it.
The copy I own is filled with wonderful full color illustrations by Tasha Tudor. I wish I was able to share all of them with you, but I hope the ones I picked gave a good overall impression of the magical world she was able to capture.
I would like to thank Sheila for the excuse to read the book and share my experience with others who were reading it around the same time. Please join us for the discussion. So join us for the garden party over at Sheilas.