This is the second time I’ve read the wonderful book A Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a children’s book set in the springtime and full of love of all the growing things and new life in the world, and a perfect book to read during the spring months. The introduction (I have a Barnes and Noble Classics copy) says that Burnett’s books were as popular in her day, the late 1800s, early 1900s, as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is today. That’s pretty impressive. Her most famous works known today are The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, and both have been made into several films and plays.
The story follows a girl named Mary Lennox, a pill of a child, who’s understandably a spoiled brat as she’s been allowed to push around her servants in India while simultaneously being wholly neglected by parents who don’t seem to care two sticks about her. After an outbreak of cholera, Mary is orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, a hunchbacked recluse who lives on a large estate in England called Misselthwait Manor. Her uncle is little seen in the story, as his main occupation over the years has been to grieve the loss of his wife.
As much as Mary’s behavior is shown as being rude to other people, much is made of her ill appearance. She’s not a healthy brat, and doesn’t know what it’s like to spend the whole day outside. Knowing little of class barriers, having spent her life abroad, Mary quickly befriends one of the servants, a young girl called Martha, who comes from a family of twelve, and introduces Mary to a different way of life, one spent in good work, and often out of doors. At first, going outside isn’t much fun for Mary, it’s cold, and the spring hasn’t quite arrived yet, but slowly, she starts to toughen up and enjoy being outside. She learns of a secret garden all locked up and is determined to see it for herself. She also befriends Mary’s brother Dicken, who has a way with animals, plants, and all living things, and ends up helping and improving another child called Colin, who is even more tyrannical than herself.
The Secret Garden is delightful, full of real magic, God’s magic and His ways of making things grow. The children themselves aren’t necessarily Christian or anything, but their appreciation and delight in nature and the world is uplifting. The determination of Mary and then later Colin, to be truly healthy and out in the world doing things and seeing things is refreshing, especially in days like these when many are afraid to set foot outside. Colin is a prime example of just how damaging it is for anyone to always imagine themselves an invalid. It is a tale of sorrow, recovery, and health, and showcases that always, always, there is something worth living for, even if you only start with a rose bush or a robin. It is telling, too, that the more Mary improves in her person, so does she perceive that other’s improve in her opinion. There is much truth that our dispositions and attitudes affect everything about us, and the more positive we are, the more positively we view the world and people around us and find joy in them.
The world in springtime is wonderful to behold, and I always think it’s the time of year when we can hear every rock, tree, flower, and stream singing God’s praises the loudest.
Updates: Next week I’ll be reviewing the K-drama Are You Human Too? starring Seo Kang Joon (Cheese in the Trap). Not sure about a romance with a robot, that’s rather weird, but it’s an exciting series so far. Two books on my reading list have titles that go together, so I’ll probably read them back to back: Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (her The Good Thief is an awesome colonial yarn of a tale), and The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Life, death, and numbers. Should be fun. My next classics reads are going to be The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper (it’s great, as is the movie, though they really aren’t very alike), and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Ever since watching the wonderful movie of Far from the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan, I’ve had a hankering to read all of his works.