Review: Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden

frances-hodgson-burnett-the-secret-gardenThis is a book that I started many times when I was younger and staying at my uncles house, but I was never there long enough to finish it and there was always something more exciting to do. So I guess 23 years old is as good a time as any to catch up on all those children’s classics that I’ve never read (Black Beauty next I think).

All the way through this book I felt very connected to little Mary; at first she was a spoilt little child, but a return to some good Yorkshire air puts her right. When I finished the book I was left with a sense of not very much having happened, but still a sense of having really enjoyed reading it. The ‘secret garden’ was described in so much detail and with so much enthusiasm that it felt almost like I was transported to a secret garden in the grounds of a grand house in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors.

As I’ve mentioned before, when Mary arrives at the house she is a spoilt and ‘ugly’ child, sent to live with her uncle when her parents are killed by an outbreak of Cholera in their house in India. At first Mary hates the bleak outlook of the moors but she is persuaded to go outside by the intrigue of a ‘secret garden’ and when she finally finds out where it is and how to get into it, she hatches a plan to bring it to life again after it has been locked up for ten years. All this with the help of a young boy called Dickon,who seems to have a natural ‘magic’ touch with nature – animals and plants alike.

While Mary is becoming more and more curious, she hears a strange crying sound, but no-one in the house will tell her what it is, ‘it must be the wuthering of the wind on the moors’. But inquisitive little Mary finds out where the noise is coming from and meets her cousin Colin, a sickly boy the same age as her who has been so pampered since he was born that he has the whole household scared of his temper tantrums. His father refuses to see him because his mother died in childbirth and he’s scared that Colin is very ill too. Colin is convinced that he is going to die before he grows up and that his back may be deformed – he’s overheard conversations between his nurse and the doctors that have led him to believe he’s very sick. But little does he know that his doctor would actually be next in line to inherit his father’s estate so he has little interest in making Colin better.

Stubborn Mary is the only one that can get through to Colin, and with Dickon’s help, they get Colin out of the house where the Secret Garden can work it’s ‘magic’. Before long, Colin is turning into a strong athletic boy and enjoying life more than he ever knew. They keep the secret very well, sharing it only with the robin that lives in the garden and the animals that follow Dickon around, namely two squirrels and a crow. The gardener Ben is let into the secret when he peers over the wall of the garden and catches them, but he’s a great help to Colin recovering his strength. When he is berating Mary for being in the garden, Colin stands up for the first time in his life to stick up for the girl who has helped him to get his life back.

The story ends very sweetly with Colin’s father returning from his travels to find Colin winning a race against Mary, which surprises the life out of him as he’s never seen his son out of bed. To the surprise of the staff of the house, they walk hand in hand laughing and joking back up to the house together.

I found the story very easy to follow, although the broad Yorkshire speak took a while to understand in parts – and I’m from Yorkshire! I do wish I’d read it when I was younger as I can imagine that the magic of the story is lost a bit on me now that I’m so much older, but I’m very glad that I finally took the time to read it.


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