In a house full of sadness and secrets, can young, orphaned Mary find happiness?
Mary Lennox, a spoiled, ill-tempered, and unhealthy child, comes to live with her reclusive uncle in Misselthwaite Manor on England’s Yorkshire moors after the death of her parents. There she meets a hearty housekeeper and her spirited brother, a dour gardener, a cheerful robin, and her wilful, hysterical, and sickly cousin, Master Colin, whose wails she hears echoing through the house at night.
With the help of the robin, Mary finds the door to a secret garden, neglected and hidden for years. When she decides to restore the garden in secret, the story becomes a charming journey into the places of the heart, where faith restores health, flowers refresh the spirit, and the magic of the garden, coming to life anew, brings health to Colin and happiness to Mary.
Frances Eliza Hodgson was the daughter of ironmonger Edwin Hodgson, who died three years after her birth, and his wife Eliza Boond. She was educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentleman until the age of fifteen, at which point the family ironmongery, then being run by her mother, failed, and the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. Here Hodgson began to write, in order to supplement the family income, assuming full responsibility for the family upon the death of her mother, in 1870. In 1872 she married Dr. Swan Burnett, with whom she had two sons, Lionel and Vivian. The marriage was dissolved in 1898. In 1900 Burnett married actor Stephen Townsend until 1902 when they got divorced. Following her great success as a novelist, playwright, and children's author, Burnett maintained homes in both England and America, traveling back and forth quite frequently. She died in her Long Island, New York home, in 1924.
Primarily remembered today for her trio of classic children's novels - Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911) - Burnett was also a popular adult novelist, in her own day, publishing romantic stories such as The Making of a Marchioness (1901) for older readers.
I am now confused. I do not know anymore what is my preference when it comes to books.
When I was a kid, I wanted to read only books with pictures like the illustrated "Alice in the Wonderland" or "Rip Van Winkle". Until I read "Silas Marner" with no pictures and I said, wow, books with no pictures are also great!
When I was a teenager, I said I don't like to read books that are hard to understand and read by adults until I read "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov and I said, wow, I did not know that there are authors who write this way!
When I was a young man, I said I do not want thick books because I do not have time for them until I read "War and Peace" and "The Fountainhead" and I said, wow, thick books can be really engaging and finishing them can give you a different high!
When I became a husband, my sex life became busy, I stopped heavy reading and concentrated on my job (not on copulating you silly) so I just grabbed some easy-read bestsellers like "The Da Vinci Code", "The Kite Runner" until my daughter came and I had to read some children's books to her and she loved them but I secretly hated them until I read to her "The Little Prince" and said, wow, there are still children's books that can speak to me even if I am a grown up man!
When I became a middle-aged man, I discovered Goodreads. There is an option to screen members who apply to become your friend by asking the applicant a question. I thought then that the choice of genre was important so I chose this question: What is your favorite literary genre?" and from then on, I have been accepting and ignoring invites based on his/her answer. I generally don't accept invites from people who say they don't have any preference. I thought that that kind of answer is wishy-washy or indecisive that reflects his or her not being a serious reader.
Prior to last year, I said, I don't want to read fantasy books. I am too old for that. Until, I read the whole series of J.R.R.Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and I say, wow, wow, wow, I did not know that I could still be amazed by a fantasy book about wizards, trolls, flying horse, monsters and little creatures!
This book, The Secret Garden is a kind of book that I would not even consider reading. It is neither a 501 nor a 1001 book. The reason why I read this is that it is one of the Top 100 Favorite Books of The Filipino Group here at Goodreads. We challenged ourselves to read all the chosen books so I gave this a try.
Story-wise, it is too sweeet. Saccharine corny. Predictable. Inappropriate for a middle-age man like me. Almost insulting to intelligence: feisty girl turns sweet girl. Sickly unwanted boy turns healthy. Then the boy and father embrace each other and profess love for one another. Hu hu hu. Books can just hit you without any warning. I was sad yet happy when I closed this book this morning. I think I am going crazy reading different books and experience all the different emotions while reading them.
So I don't know anymore. I don't know what I like in books. No more preferences. Ask me now, what is my favorite genre. I don't know.
But, the writing in this book is flawless. I have attended a novel-writing workshop last year and all the ingredients of a good novel are here: well-developed characters, each of them has his/her own distinct voice and transforming towards the end, milieu (the garden) is clearly described and very significant in the story, the internal and external conflicts are arranged like small-to-tall majorettes in a parade, the hooks at the end of each chapter, the climax, the falling action, the denouement ties up the loose ends from the conflicts. The theme is solid. The lessons, though corny, are school-textbook-kind of reminders: that love is important to make this world a better place and nature is beautiful so we have to take care of it.
I guess my realization is this: yes, at some points in our lives, we tend to prefer some literary genres over the others. However, the genre is secondary to the writing. If the writer is good, no matter in which genre the book belongs, he/she should be read.
The Secret Garden has been such a delightful read during the cold, dreary winter months. Who else is looking forward to the wonder of spring, the greenery, and warmer weather?
The title "The Secret Garden" almost overshadows the magnificent characters. Colin always had at his disposal the grounds and fresh air, but he needed someone new to come along and offer him encouragement, someone to believe in him, someone who was willing to take him outside.
Burnett does an incredible job with character development. We can see the characters progress and mature. We see imperfect parents and doctors. There are quite a few characters with a loud bark but no bite.
The Yorkshire is a bit difficult to understand at times, but The Secret Garden is an enchanting read, one that I look forward to rereading.
Charming hearts since 1911, The Secret Garden is a whisper of a dream long remembered and the magic of spring and new beginnings.
Note to self: The next time that you are in New York, remember to check out The Secret Garden fountain in Central Park in the Conservatory Gardens.
The Secret Garden is a children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett first published as a book in 1911, after a version was published as an American magazine serial beginning in 1910. Set in England, it is one of Burnett's most popular novels and is considered a classic of English children's literature. Several stage and film adaptations have been made.
عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «باغ اسرارآمیز»؛ «باغ مخفی»؛ «باغ راز:؛ نویسنده: فرانسیس هاجسن برنت؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و چهارم ماه ژوئن سال 1994میلادی
عنوان: باغ اسرارآمیز؛ نویسنده: فرانسیس هاجسن برنت؛ مترجم: شمس الملوک مصاحب؛ تهران، فرانکلین، 1340، در 338ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 19م
عنوان: باغ مخفی؛ نویسنده: فرانسیس هاجسن برنت؛ مترجم: نوشین ریشهری؛ تهران، سروش، انتشارات صدا و سیما، 1372، در 203ص، شابک چاپ سوم در سال 1389؛ شابک 9789643769185؛
عنوان: باغ مخفی؛ نویسنده: فرانسیس هاجسن برنت؛ مترجم: مهرداد مهدویان؛ تهران، قدیانی، کتابهای بنفشه، 1375، در 280ص، مصور، رمان نوجوانان، شابک چاپ چهارم در سال 1389؛ شابک 9789644170485؛
دخترکی دهساله، به نام «ماری (مری) لناکس»؛ پدر و مادر خویش را، در «هندوستان»، از دست میدهد؛ او را نزد عمویش، به «انگلستان» میفرستند؛ عمویش مرد قوزی، و بداخلاقی است، که در جوانی، زن زیبایش را از دست داده، و از آن پس، در باغ زنش را بسته است؛ «ماری»، به یاری پسر جوانی به نام «دیکون»، درِ باغی را که سالهاست نگشوده اند، باز میکند، و سپس پى میبرند، که پسرعموى معلولش «کالین»، در آنسوى باغ زندگى میکند؛ پاهاى «کالین»، حرکت نمیکنند؛ اما با یاریهای «مارى»، و «دیکون»، و وجود باغ، سبب میشوند، تا او تندرستی خویش را، باز یابد
نقل از متن ترجمه سرکار خانم «آرزو احمی»، نشر پیدایش در 416ص: («مری» دوست داشت از دور مادرش را نگاه کند و فکر میکرد او خیلی زیباست، اما چون خیلی کم مادرش را میشناخت، نمیشد از او توقع داشت که دوستش داشته باشد یا پس از مرگ دلش برای او تنگ شود؛ در واقع، اصلاً دلش برای او تنگ نشد و از آنجایی که دختر خودخواهی بود تمام فکرش، مثل همیشه، مشغول خودش بود؛ اگر سنش بیشتر بود بدون شک از اینکه در دنیا تنها مانده خیلی نگران میشد، اما او خیلی کوچک بود، و چون همیشه دیگران مراقبش بودند، تصور میکرد که همیشه هم وضع همین طور میماند؛ چیزی که فکرش را مشغول میکرد این بود که دوست داشت بداند آیا پیش آدمهای خوبی میرود که رفتار مودبانه ای با او خواهند داشت؛ و مثل «آیا» و دیگر خدمتکاران بومی میگذارند هر کار دلش میخواهد، بکند یا نه؛ میدانست در خانه ی کشیش «انگلیسی» که اول به آنجا رفت، نمیماند؛ نمیخواست که بماند؛ کشیش «انگلیسی» فقیر بود و پنج فرزند داشت، که سن همه شان نزدیک هم بود، لباسهای کهنه ای به تن داشتند، همیشه با هم دعوا میکردند و اسباب بازیها را از دست هم قاپ میزدند؛ «مری» از خانه ی نامرتبشان متنفر بود، و آنقدر با آنها بدرفتاری کرد، که بعد از یکی دو روز، دیگر هیچکس با او بازی نمیکرد؛ بعد از روز دوم اسمی رویش گذاشتند، که حسابی عصبانی اش کرد؛ این اسم اول به فکر «بیزل» رسید؛ «بیزل» پسر کوچکی با چشمهای آبی رنگ گستاخ، و بینی سر بالا بود، و «مری» خیلی از او بدش میآمد؛ «مری» درست مثل روز�� که «وبا» شیوع پیدا کرده بود، داشت تنهایی زیر درخت بازی میکرد، با تلهایی از خاک، راههایی برای باغش میساخت، که «بیزل» آمد و نزدیکش به تماشا ایستاد؛ خیلی زود به کار «مری» علاقمند شد، و پیشنهادی کرد؛ گفت: «چرا چند تا سنگ آنجا نمیچینی تا مثلاً باغ سنگی بشود؟ آنجا، آن وسط»؛ و خم شد تا نشانش بدهد؛ «مری» فریاد زد: «برو، من از پسرها خوشم نمیآید؛ از اینجا برو.»؛ «بیزل» لحظه ای عصبانی شد، و بعد مسخره اش کرد؛ او همیشه خواهرهایش را مسخره میکرد؛ دورش چرخید، شکلک درآورد، آواز خواند و خندید)؛ پایان نقل
تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 05/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
In the spirit of A Little Princess, this story recognises the characteristics we must prize most as human beings. The book follows contrary Mary Lennox as she learns a very important lesson from a very secret garden.
“Two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way - or always to have it.”
As a child, I read this book at least four or five times, along with Frances Hodgson Burnett's other childhood stories about Sarah Crewe (Little Princess) and Cedric (Lord Fauntleroy). They represented a rite of passage for me as a person and as a reader. There is magic involved in coming-of-age stories where children strive to find the kind of life they are meant to live, against all odds, and I felt deeply satisfied each time I closed one of those books, knowing that the protagonists had (once again) made it through various challenges to live a better, more natural and fulfilled life.
So far, so good.
Some childhood classics are better left alone later, signifying a certain phase that can only be "demystified" by rereading, leading to bitter disappointment and loss of the initial enchantment. I hadn't touched The Secret Garden for decades, as I feared the slightly exaggerated, dramatised plot might put me off, and destroy the magic of my memory.
But then I happened to discuss a phenomenon among students in a wealthy, over-privileged area. Many children and teenagers appear phlegmatic, angry, frustrated, lacking initiative to learn and develop, and they demand unreasonable attention without showing any willingness to commit to tasks themselves. We could not make sense of it, seeing that these students had "everything they needed, and more", and met with no restrictions or boundaries from their parents. Shouldn't they be happy? But they aren't. They are among the most neurotic, anxious children I have ever met.
That's when The Secret Garden came to my mind again, - an early case study of childhood neglect in wealthy environments, in which children's physical and material needs are met, but their psychological development is completely left untouched. In The Secret Garden, it is the poor, but well-raised and deeply loved local boy who shows the spoiled, unhappy upper class children how to take on a responsible role for their life, and how to make active and positive decisions rather than throwing fits to let others step in and take over.
Children need boundaries, and nurturing, and meaningful connections to their surroundings. If they are treated with fear and submission, they will turn into tyrants to see how far they can go before they receive some kind of direct attention, negative or positive. If they are handled with too much severity, they will duck and hide, and develop chameleon-like survival strategies. To create a happy, mature, and responsible human being, a balance between rights and duties must be struck, with limits the child knows it cannot overstep without facing consequences, and with areas of creative experimentation, where future freedom of choice can be safely practised.
Just like a flower in a garden, a child needs both space, time and air, and a lot of nurturing, to blossom. I am grateful for the connection I found between my childhood reading pleasure and the everyday worries I face in my profession. A smile, a word of encouragement, a nudge in the right direction, all the small signs that show students that their teachers believe in their power to achieve great things - that's the magic of everyday life. And giving in to their tantrums is not helping those sensitive plants grow. It is stifling their development.
When they claim they are too "tired" or "bored" to read The Secret Garden, and prefer to watch a movie version (if at all), they are in more dire need of overcoming the obstacle of long-term under-stimulation than the protagonists of the story itself. They need to be trained to love reading just like the two unhappy children in the mansion needed to be trained to show interest and care for the garden.
Two sickly, arrogant, lonely neglected little children from wealthy families both ten cousins, live continents apart Mary Lennox in hot, steamy colonial India and Colin Craven, he in rainy, cold, Yorkshire northern England a cripple just before the start of the First World War, they don't even known the other exists but will soon both like to show contempt to servants by yelling at them, while giving orders . Mary is spoiled unhappy and angry her beautiful mother loves parties, doesn't look kindly at the plain offspring , father too busy also helping govern the enormous colony, truth be told they dislike the unlovable girl. Cholera strikes and both parents fall, the little orphan child, is not emotionally attached to either one, and never a single drop of tears is shed...Shipped off as quickly as possible by the authorities, to her uncle Archibald Craven in England, Colin's father owner of an ancient family mansion, ( 600 year- old) Misselthwaite Manor with a hundred mostly unused rooms a decade previously, Mr. Craven lost his wife (Mary and Colin mothers were sisters ) he adored in an accident and never recovered emotionally his face always sad and mournful. The lord of the manor is a frequent traveler abroad, he must get away from his bedridden weak boy, it pains him to look at the pitiful sight and mostly does when Colin is asleep....Mary after a long, boring, escorted sea voyage arrives eventually and lives alone in an isolated part of the mansion, Martha a teenager her servant, the only person she talks to gives information about a secret garden, Mrs. Medlock the housekeeper, like everyone else ignores the unattractive girl and hides her far from others just the hired hands are there, after a quick visit to see her strange uncle he leaves for foreign lands. Poor little Mary, nothing to do but stare at the furniture... exploring the the grounds of the estate the nearby unnatural moors, outside and somehow finds the secret garden... later after hearing again weird wailing sounds, coming through the walls in her room the rather frightened Mary gets up in the middle of the night, down the dark, long , sinister corridors enters an unknown room and discovers a pathetic, depressed boy in bed her cousin Colin that no one mentioned....They become close friends after a few minor disagreements life begins in reality, for the two children at Mary's urging, she gets Colin outside for fresh air, with the help of a third Martha's younger brother Dickon, 12, who animals love, a hidden door , opened showing the eerie, gloomy, mysterious, dying secret garden locked for ten years by Mr.Craven, something dreadful occurred there brave Mary is delighted though, she wants a beautiful garden with colorful roses, live trees, growing plants birds singing and flying bees humming, butterflies floating, rabbits jumping, squirrels climbing, crows cawing brilliant flowers springing up in all sections of the Secret Garden..and people lying on the green grass, sightseeing looking at the bluest of the blue the sky above. They have hoes the children, let the plowing and weeding begin...A children's classic that can be read and enjoyed by adults, rejuvenation of the human spirit with a simple act of planting a few seeds in the ground, yet more than just exotic flowers coming above the dirt the most precious commodity on the Earth may also spring into existence, life for the soul.
I first read this wonderful and evocative absolute and utter gem of a story at around the age of twelve (and it was likely one of the first longer novels I read entirely in English, not counting those books read entirely for school). And I simply adored Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden when I read it as a young teenager (or rather, a tween), I continued to love it when I reread it multiple times while at university, and I still massively loved the novel when I reread the story for the Children's Literature Group in 2011 (and I much continue to love it, having reread it at least twice or so since then). And indeed I honestly do think that I have actually enjoyed The Secret Garden even more as an adult than the times I read the novel when I was younger (and that is definitely saying an awful lot). For when I first read The Secret Garden as a young teenager, I was certainly much enchanted by the garden (and of course, the Robin), and really liked and enjoyed reading about the Sowerbys, but I did kind of consider both Mary and Colin as somewhat too spoiled and selfish (I understood their problems and indeed felt empathy, but I also felt more than a bit annoyed at and by them, something that I certainly did not experience as much during my adult rereads). Because as an adult reader, I actually and firmly believe that most, if not even all of both Mary's and Colin's problems and behavioural quirks (be they emotional or physical) were and are the result of parental abandonment and emotional neglect (maybe even abuse). They act and react towards the world the way the world (or at least how most of the world) has always acted and reacted towards them. And without the garden, but also without characters like Martha, Susan and Dickon Sowerby, without Ben Weatherstaff and the Robin, there would never have been any change in and for Mary (or at least, not ever enough change), and by extension, there would never have been any change in and for Colin and his father either.
Now one interesting and thought-provoking fact presented in The Secret Garden is that there actually seems to be a real and almost palpable absence of nurturing father figures throughout (except maybe Dickon, but he is just a boy and in many ways resembles more a Pan-like nature deity, and Ben Weatherstaff really is too old and curmudgeonly to be considered nurturing and fatherly). We do have quite a number of nurturing mother figures portrayed who aid Mary, and later Colin in their recovery (Susan and Martha Sowerby, and even Mary later becomes somewhat of a motherly and nurturing figure towards Colin), but we never see or hear much about a Mr. Sowerby (he is a complete nonentity). And while indeed much is made of the fact that Mary Lennox' mother did not seem to want her child (a fact that is rightfully criticised), that Mr. Lennox did not trouble himself much about his daughter either, while mentioned briefly, is also seemingly accepted as an acceptable societal given. Also that Mr. Craven has spiritually and emotionally totally abandoned Colin, and cannot stand to even see him when he is awake just because his son's eyes supposedly remind him of the boy's dead mother, while this is indeed noted in The Secret Garden, his rather vile and nasty attitude and behaviour towards Colin, towards his son is not (at least in my humble opinion) subject to nearly the same amount of harsh criticisms that Mary's emotional and spiritual abandonment by her mother is. And while I do realise and even understand that the death of Mr. Craven's wife was traumatic for him, both Mr. Carven's and Mrs. Lennox' actions, or rather their lack of love and acceptance towards their children have had the same horrible psychological (and psychosomatic) consequences, basically turning both of them into emotional cripples, and Colin into a hysterical hypochondriac who thinks he has a crooked back.
The Secret Garden clearly and lastingly demonstrates that children (no that anyone) can only show love, can only be lovable, if they have experienced love themselves. In the beginning of the novel, Mary is described as tyrannical, unpleasant, thoroughly "unlovable" and also as somewhat odd. But how can Mary know anything about love, if she has never experienced love? Her parents certainly do not seem to want her, and she has basically been abandoned to the care of servants, who have also been instructed to keep Mary out of the way as much as possible (and in her innermost soul, Mary likely also realises this and much and rightly resents this). Mary's temper tantrums towards her Ayah and other servants, her desire to always get her own way, are not merely Mary imitating the behaviour she witnesses among the ex-pat community in India (although that likely also has a major part to play). I believe that in many ways, the servants also act as representatives of her absent parents, and by lashing out at the servants, Mary is also lashing out at her careless, unloving, absent parents by proxy.
And even when Mary first arrives at Misselthwaite, there is still a real and ever-present danger that she will never be able to change, to emerge out of her shell (or to change enough, for at least in England, Mary has the opportunity to go outside and play/run, which was not possible in India due to the hot, stiflingly humid climate), for many of the inhabitants of the manor, but especially Mrs. Medlock and Mr. Craven regard Mary, or seem to regard Mary the same way that her parents did, either not at all, or as a cumbersome, even loathsome burden. And without Martha, Dickon, and the influence of Martha's mother (Mrs. Sowerby), and of course, Ben Weatherstaff and the Robin (who is a bird, but might just represent the spirit of Colin's deceased mother), not much would likely have ever changed for Mary or within Mary. There might well have been some physical improvement of her health, but her mental health, her soul, would likely have remained for the most part sour and disagreeable and stagnated.
Finally, I do have to admit that I have a bit of a problem with the fact that oh so many of the adults portrayed in The Secret Garden (and even inherently positive individuals like Martha and Susan Sowerby) keep bringing up the fact that Mary's mother was supposedly very physically attractive, and that in many ways, Mary is often judged negatively because she is plain, while her mother was considered very beautiful. However, Mary's mother does not in any way care about or for her daughter, and had, in fact, never wanted a daughter, and in my opinion, her careless, unloving attitude (and that of her husband as well) is reflected in Mary's countenance, her whole being. Thus, even though Mrs. Lennox might have been physically sweet looking, she basically has a careless and unloving and massively sour (read nastily ugly) soul, which is in my opinion reflected in her daughter (both spiritually and physically).
And just to furthermore point out that this here "Norton Critical Edition" of The Secret Garden (which seems to have been published in 2006) is to be most highly recommended, especially for anyone interested in both the novel (the narrative) and its historical contexts, diverse critical voices etc., as it provides not only the text proper (which is simply and utterly magical, of course), but also much supplemental information and materials about Frances Hodgson Burnett and her timeless literary classic. And although I do not think that this edition lists every piece of extant literary criticism on The Secret Garden, there truly and fortunately is a goodly amount presented, as well as a solid, although not extensive selected bibliography (most definitely a more than adequate starting point for serious academic study and research).
Frances Hodgson Burnett probably made a deal with the devil, or was BFFs with a fairy, or indulged in some light witchcraft.
i can't imagine another way to make a century's worth of indoor kids think hanging out in a garden, being outside at all seasons, and engaging in manual labor on a regular basis sounds fun. no one who reads children's classics is outdoorsy.
but she did it, because i, a kid who had to be forced to spend time in nature, read this book approximately one million times in childhood.
and i'd do it again!
part of that i-review-books-i-read-a-long-time-ago project. either you already know the drill or you should escape while you still can.
I know this book seems out of place among the fare I usually read, but hey, all I can say is that I like what I like. There is some intangible quality to this book that really strikes a chord in me. The whole idea of that sickly child being healed with love, attention, and (forgive me an LDS joke) wholesome recreational activities, just somehow speaks Truth to me. I think this book has strong application to today's problems with the rising generation. I really believe that kids these days are getting fatter, less healthy, and less disciplined. I think that a good romp on the heather and a breath of fresh air would do kids a lot of good.
On another level, I really believe that some people are only as sick as they think they are. Working in the healthcare field, it's obvious to me that some people find it quite easy to take the role of a victim. Again, this book speaks Truth concerning the value of attitude and perspective in overcoming perceived problems and finding out that they weren't as bad as you thought they were.
Why I chose to read this book: 1. I remember seeing this lovely story reenacted as a musical play by some middle-school students several years ago and was impressed by their performance; and, 2. I wanted to end my "Classics Month" with this book that my GR friend, Isabel, recommended!
Positives: 1. I appreciated the believable growth of various characters, going from sour dispositions and downright rudeness to being filled with hope, joy and empathy. After just reading a book about another orphan (Heidi), I was introduced to the polar opposite of that loveable character to this book's main character, Mary Lennox. With parents like hers, it's no wonder that Mary (and later, we learn, also Colin), have such disagreeable personalities! Luckily for these two children, fortunate circumstances, such as understanding adults, good friends, especially Dickon, and exposure to nature, changed and enhanced Mary and Colin's lives; 2. speaking of which, I couldn't get over the similarities between the "sickly" children, Colin (The Secret Garden) and Clara (Heidi). Both have a deceased mother and an absentee father who travels extensively, leaving his/their child(ren) behind for long periods of time, both cannot walk, and both have friends (Mary and Heidi, respectively) who help them recover by believing in themselves; 3. since I had also recently read The Wind in the Willows, I was amused/pleased at how the animals featured in that story also make appearances in The Secret Garden!; and, 4. as a flower gardener myself, I could highly relate to Mary and her friends' happiness while gardening, from weeding and pruning to experiencing the ecstasy of all the sensory delights emanating from such a sanctuary. 🌹🌷🌳
A couple of niggles: 1. Colin's ramblings about his intentions for self-improvement went on a little long for me 🥱; and, 2. I cringed (on page 252 of my edition) when Colin expressed support for domestic abuse! 😱
As a parent, grandparent and teacher, I loved the overall message that good food, exercise, fresh air, unstructured play, socialization and engagement with nature are what young children need to grow and thrive. A wonderful story about trust and friendship!
I think it's very important to address and talk about the racism and ableism in 'The Secret Garden', mainly because I went into reading this totally unaware of the problematic nature of this book. I also feel like parents might also be unaware as I have been left comments on my reading vlog of this saying they had no idea, and will talk about those elements of the book with their children so they know how wrong the racism and ableism is in the book.
I'm also not here to be a gatekeeper. You can still read the book and enjoy it, I will not judge you for it. I just think that giving this book to an impressionable child could be harmful if the subject matter is not discussed with the child, because the author made no attempt to right the wrongs of the racism by the end of the book. I know it's because this book is 'a product of its time' and 'that behaviour was acceptable back then'. Well, guess what. The behaviour is not acceptable now.
Mary begins the book as a neglected child who treats her servants in India appallingly. She even goes so far as to slap and abuse her servants. Nobody in the book bats an eye when Brown people are called "not people", and it's not even just Mary who has these racist views. You may argue that Mary undergoes a transformation by the end of the book and becomes a better person, and that she does. She learns compassion and kindness and is inspired to change. But does the racism ever get addressed? Does the author tell the reader that being racist is wrong? No. Mary becomes a better person without addressing how truly awful she was at the beginning of the book.
Colin is also bed-bound and uses a wheelchair, and then suddenly, he can walk. He throws his disability away. I've seen people argue that he was never disabled, but I've also heard a lot of people with disabilities identified with Colin throughout the book until he was "cured" of his disability. If it had been made clear from the beginning that Colin could walk, then I don't think there'd be much of a problem. However, to bait readers with a disabled character who is miraculously cured is just another blow. Not all disabled people can be cured, and to give this idea that you can only be happy if you don't have a disability, well, that's extremely harmful to young people reading this book who are disabled.
While themes of the book regarding change and growth is done beautifully through the tending of the garden, and how it ties in with nature, I still couldn't fully enjoy this book. I just had no idea about the racism and ableism, and I feel like a lot of people who go into this book might not know about it too. Again, I think it's okay to read it if you want, but please bare in mind that when you give this book to a child, it has these elements and open up a discussion with them about it.
Let's not act like racism and ableism is okay in this book just because it's 'a product of its time'. You know, there are hundreds of children's books published today that are better. Much, much better.
The Secret Garden is a "lovely" story in every sense of the word. Primarily, it's about three kids: Mistress Mary, Dickon, and Master Colin--and how just thinking a little differently can change a person completely.
There's a lot of subtle things Frances Hodgson Burnett does right: The way she relates the Garden to Colin's mother and how that affects his relationship with his father--and how all of these things have made him a horribly spoiled brat. That thinking a little differently, and getting some fresh air, and fixing up a Secret Garden can simultaneously fix up his life and his relationship with his father.
Even though it packs a nice punch and does a lot of little things right, the story overall is a tough read. And it goes beyond just being dated and having awkwardly constructed sentences. It's more than the dialogue and the Yorkshire accent most of the characters speak with that makes what they're trying to say almost impossible to decipher for a modern English speaker.
The pacing is awful. There really isn't any conflict. So it's REALLY hard to get into. And that's sad, because it really is a lovely tale.
I have vivid memories of reading this renowned children's classic when I was very young. I can distinctly recall my shock at reading a book with such an initially dislikable protagonist, the likes of which I had not yet discovered during my few years of reading. I was intrigued by the petulant Mary Lennox and was enchanted by her discovery of the secret garden. This, I believe, was my my first introduction to dark and brooding main characters, and probably even honed my later love for female Gothic fiction, so I am eternally indebted to it, for that.
It has now been many years since my young repeated readings of this book and I tried to divorce these emotions from my present reading. Whether or not I was successful I could not say, but this still entranced me just as much as it did as a child. This book has always held a nostalgic place in my heart but I now love it even more for the joy it continued to bring to my adult self.
Re-read this, after many years, as part of my children books experiment. Several revelations so far: One, the plot is basically JANE EYRE, with an asexual Rochester who keeps, not his wife, but his son, in the attic. Two, it's surprisingly easy to read the characters of both Mary and Colin as being on the autistic spectrum. (Her rudeness; her insensitivity to others, her obsessiveness: his tantrums; his introspection; his obsessions.) Three; the pantheism and everyday magic of the story is a lot more sophisticated than I realized as a child, as is the depiction of Nature and the landscape - quite Bronte-like in its intensity. Unexpected moment of joy: the many occasions on which young Mary exclaims with delight that she is getting fatter - fat repeatedly held up as a positive - a refreshing change from so many of the dysmorphic, anxious young girls of contemporary fiction. One jarring note to the modern reader: Mary's attitude towards the people of India; an uncomfortable reminder of the casual racism and arrogance of British colonialism. Overall, however, a lovely novel, subtle and captivating, that stands the test of time, and more.
1 star for a popular and beloved classic? What a scandal. Well, I think this is the first classic that I'm giving a 1 star for so it’s a fairly big deal. Although I did not finish this, I already know how the book wraps up.
Here's the thing: Many classics deal with universal ideas. The Secret Garden deals with kids who have been neglected emotionally by their parents, and even though it's overdone now days, I can understand why it was so popular a century ago. I already know the character will have some self-realization about the fact that she’s a little bitchy, ungrateful kid (of course, she will still be racist), and she will live happily ever after with her uncle, never attending school because she’s a stupid female. “Oh, she doesn’t need school, she needs to jump more rope!”
I just can't connect with a story about a spoiled little rich kid who finds out that they can actually be nice, but it warms my heart to know everyone is capable of such emotion.
I also believe the message of the book was loud and clear: if you grow up in a environment like India instead of England then expect yourself to be a bad and mean person too. The message was not: be a nice person even if you're rich or don't be rude and bratty.
And if I have to read one more line of Martha talking, I'll lose it. Can the women speak properly? I don't care if it’s some accent. It’s goddamn annoying reading it. I also believe her brother was on meth because he would go around the field saying, “ahahaha canna tha’ can you hears the birds and smell the honey…”
EDIT: No need to point out to me that racism was the norm in the early 20th century. I held no illusion that was contrary to that. However, I also believe that it was not necessarily something everyone subscribed to even back then. There are people born far earlier than Frances Hodgeson Burnett and held far more progressive beliefs and were not so easily led by society to subscribe to such notions. What of men such as William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips after all?
Their code of morals were above a novel whose main purpose was to teach about morals. This is what essentially annoys about this novel. I don't care for the racism in other books. H.P Lovecraft's racism doesn't disturb me. After all, his stories weren't written to teach kids about morality or goodness.
It's the fact that this book is dedicated to correcting the behavior and morals of a child at every instance. However, when the child says, "blacks are not people" and no one bothers to contradict her then whatever message this book was attempting to deliver about morality is lost.
The author is a "product of her time." Sorry, I didn't realize that you had to be born at a particular period of human history to see others of different appearance as human.
Somewhere around the age of seven or eight I came across a beautiful book in my local library that contained both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I instantly latched onto it and completely fell in love with the two stories. Over the years I checked that book out again and again, and eventually got my own copies.
There is something about The Secret Garden that is so hard to capture in a review. From that first reading, and for every single reread over the years, it has been the perfect book. Everything about it works for me - the characters are among my favourite ever created, especially Dickon, who is so perfect in such a beautifully real way. Both Mary and Colin are in many ways unlikable characters, especially earlier on, yet I still adore them. They behave appallingly, but they have also been starved of attention, love and discipline. Their journey over the course of the book, and the way they help each other evolve into better people is so wonderful to follow.
And the garden - that magical garden. It always completely sparked my imagination, and something I really noticed during this read was how poignant the descriptions of magic are in this book - the magic of nature and friendship and the way thoughts can have such an impact on us. It could easily sound preachy I suppose, but somehow it doesn't, at least not to me.
I undoubtedly approach this book with an almost overwhelming sense of nostalgia, and am already so firmly in love with it that I cannot really do anything other than admire it. It's a magical book with a magical garden! 🌱🌸🌹🍀🍁🍂🍃🌺🌻🌼🌞🌳🌲🌿 🐣🐦🐑🐎🐾🐝🐜 🔑 (Picture the key more old fashioned and romantic as it fits the story better! And the birds were robins and a crow-- I am limited in my options!😁)💟
I guess I didn't miss much by not reading this book as a child. I don't really understand why it became a classic. It starts out interestingly enough with a very gothic setting. A little British girl named Mary survives a cholera epidemic in India and is sent to Yorkshire to live with her distant relatives. The author gives a vivid description of the beauty of the moors and the mysterious mansion that the girl goes to live in. The only other interesting part is really when Mary discovers the boy who she hears crying in the mansion and when she discovers the secret garden. Everything else beyond that (which is most of the book) isn't all that interesting. The author spends many pages explaining how miraculous and magic fresh air is for healing and fattening up the crying boy and the girl who escaped the cholera epidemic in India.
The bits that get old after a while: Oh, look, it's a garden! Look, I can run and play! I'm not a cripple after all! Look at the pretty birds! The garden is alive! Now I have an appetite! Isn't it a magical miracle that I'm having fun playing outside?
I had to read this for class, but I'm happy that I did! I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was younger and loved it, so I'm pleased that I had the chance to read this for a class. Definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to read an easy classic as I love her writing.
Impresa ardua trovare parole per descrivere una tra le letture più significative della propria infanzia. Trovare parole per il libro che abbiamo più amato quando da bambini leggevamo sulla terrazza o il lettone di casa dei nonni, d’estate, con l’atmosfera magica del tramonto. Quando non ci chiedevamo come fosse possibile essere trascinati in un altro mondo grazie alle parole di un libro, come fosse possibile preoccuparsi, arrabbiarsi, piangere per delle persone che esistevano solo nella nostra testa.
Prendo in prestito le parole di chi, meglio di me, ha saputo rendere il senso di nostalgia che ci invade quando guardiamo, tocchiamo, sfogliamo o addirittura solo pensiamo a un libro che ci è appartenuto (nel senso di letto, divorato, adorato, amato) nell’infanzia: “Non vi sono forse giorni della nostra infanzia che abbiamo vissuto così pienamente, come quelli che abbiamo creduto di aver trascorso senza viverli, i giorni passati in compagnia di un libro prediletto. Il gioco per il quale un amico veniva a cercarci durante il brano più interessante, l’ape o il raggio di sole fastidiosi, che ci costringevano ad alzare gli occhi dalla pagina o a cambiare di posto, le provviste che ci avevano dato per la merenda e che lasciavamo accanto a noi su una panca, senza toccarle, mentre sul nostro capo la forza del sole andava diminuendo nel cielo azzurro. Il pranzo che ci aveva costretti a tornare a casa e durante il quale pensavamo solo a quando, subito dopo, saremmo saliti a terminare il capitolo interrotto, vale a dire tutto ciò che, a quanto sembrava, riempiva quei giorni per gli altri, e che noi respingevamo quale ostacolo volgare a un piacere divino, e di cui la lettura avrebbe dovuto farci percepire soltanto l’inopportunità. Tutto ciò ce ne imprimeva invece un ricordo così dolce (tanto più prezioso, a nostro giudizio attuale, di quello che allora leggevamo con amore) che, se ci capita ancor oggi di sfogliare i libri di una volta, altro non vediamo in essi se non gli unici calendari che abbiamo conservato dei giorni fuggiti, e con la speranza di veder riflesse sulle loro pagine le dimore e gli stagni che più non esistono.” Marcel Proust
Where, you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.
Originally published in 1911 The Secret Garden is a true children’s classic. One that adults should read as well.
Mary Lennox was born in India. A plain little girl she was not wanted by her mother or father and consequently handed over to the servants to raise. Because her Ayah and the other servants feared her mother would be angry if she was disturbed, Mary was consequently given her own way. She soon became a bossy, nasty, little girl who was frail, yellow and most often angry. When she was but 10 years of age both her parents and her Ayah succumbed to Cholera, leaving Mary alone with no-one to raise her.
But Mary has an uncle who lives in England on the Yorkshire moors and she soon finds herself at Misselthwaite Manor. Her Uncle lost his wife ten years ago to a tragic accident and since that time is rarely at the manor, choosing instead a life of solitude while travelling. So once more Mary is left on her own, only this time without an Ayah. Through talking and listening to Martha, a young servant at the manor, Mary soon learns about a mysterious secret garden. A garden behind a locked gate that no-one has opened in ten years. And what is the source of that plaintive crying that Mary hears from time to time and everyone else pretends they do not.
A secret garden, a hundred room English Manor, the Yorkshire moors, a 12 year old Yorkshire boy bestowed with nigh on magical persuasion over the woodland creatures, a mysterious cry, lessons learned the hard way and the power of positive thinking. There is plenty to love in this story that can be easily digested by young and old alike.
It is a short read, so take a break, curl up and spend a couple of hours with this charming children’s classic, guaranteed to fill you with wonder.
This is a beautiful children's book which somehow, I've missed reading as a child. It is very unfortunate, for I would have been really enchanted by it. The book brought back my childhood memories. My childhood home had a large garden with lots of roses. My mother tended them and I used to help her. When I was a little older (younger than Mary Lennox in Secret Garden), I wanted my own thatch, so I got a nice square corner at one end of the garden with my own tiny garden toolset. Reading the book was really a nostalgic journey.
The story of The Secret Garden is an inspirational one for the children. It tells you how two disagreeable children become lovable, pleasant, and healthy. How does this happen? By the magic of course! - The magic of the garden, the magic of nature. We all know the healing power of nature. It is the best medicine for all our ailments. It soothes and cures our soul, and through the soul, the body, the way it did for Mary “quite contrary” and Colin the “invalid”.
The story is well written that I could picture almost all the characters - Mary, Colin, Dickon (oh I loved him) Mrs. Sowerby, and Captain, Soot, Nut and Shell, and all the troupe of Dickon. And the best and the biggest and the most important character is the secret garden itself. I really enjoyed the author's descriptive accounts of the garden and the Yorkshire moorland. It was so refreshing. I could almost swear that I breathed the same fresh air which Mary, Colin, and Dickon breathed, all through the read.
This is the second book I've read of Burnett, first being A Little Princess , which was a childhood favorite of mine. I really like the way she tells her stories. It is bewitching. I didn't really think I would enjoy a children's story this much in my mature years, but it was impossible not to enjoy it. Her writing is so good. She is one of the best children story writers. There is not an atom of doubt there.
She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and they always obeyed her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived. (PG 4)
It was an adventure reading this as an adult. It was beautiful to read about kids having an imagination especially in the type of world and environment we live in. I personally know of parents and children (older and young) who only speak in reference to TikTok or YouTube. I don't want to criticize anyone's choices because they don't affect me personally or my journey in life but it's disturbing to see a baby or toddler fiddling with the phone next to their parents.
This book was a great reminder of nature needing children and children needing nature. The possibilities are endless. Nature and spirituality (what they call Magic) are great for the soul as we see here. The kid's personalities evolve from spoiled little jerks to kind and happy beings.
I just loved the simpleness of the story. The wholehearted message. The illustrations by Tasha Tudor added an extra layer of enjoyment.