Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Secret Garden, The (c) 1911
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a delightful story about a ten year old girl named Mary Lennox who comes to live with her uncle after her parents die in India in a cholera epidemic.

She starts out as a rather spoiled child having been ignored by her parents, and given her way in everything by the servants in her parents' house. But as she comes to know the servants in her uncle's house and experiences their spunky, insistent refusal to tolerate her rude behavior, she starts to become aware of how unkind she has been without even thinking about it. And she begins to change for the better.

During Mary's explorations of the garden she comes across a mysterious door that is locked, and one of the servants, a teenager named Martha Sowerby tells Mary about how Mary's eccentric uncle Archibald Craven had it locked up and the key buried when his wife, who had loved the garden had had an accident within the walled garden, and died as a result. What lies behind the locked door is as mysterious to Mary as the strange sounds coming from the other side of the house which sound like a child howling, but that Martha and the other servants pretend not to hear. After a robin shows Mary where to find the buried key, she’s able to make her way into the garden that has been locked for ten years. But it’s overgrown, and forlorn. After hearing the howling again, and knowing it isn’t the wind, Mary investigates in the middle of the night, and she meets a boy named Collin who believes he is an invalid. Collin is Archibald Craven's son, and the two children realize they’re cousins. Collin is in much the same predicament that Mary used to be. Being the son of the Master of Misselthwaite Manor, and having been a very sickly baby, he has been spoiled and pitied by the servants, who have believed since he was a baby that he probably wouldn't live very long. Much like Mary was in India, he has not required to try to do anything, and as a result, his health has remained poor. Mary suspects he’s not as sick as he thinks and that she suspects that he is much the same as she was before she came to her uncle’s house, found the garden, and developed a more positive attitude. She wonders if the garden can help cure Collin of his bad attitude and hopeless outlook on life the way the garden helped her. With the help of Dickon, Martha's younger brother, Mary begins to work at helping Collin have a more positive outlook on life, and she and Dickon take him out to the garden to see if that will help Collin improve physically and emotionally.

What will happen as a result of their efforts? And what will Mary's uncle, Collin's father do when he discovers what the three children have been up to?

The book is an enjoyable tale, one that reminds me somewhat of A Christmas Carol, except that instead of an elderly gentleman coming to have a change of heart, there are not one but two children over the course of the story coming to recognize the need to be kinder, both to others and to themselves. I recommend this book to people who love classic literature, and children's stories.

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