I got really confused by this story, mostly because I'm very indoctrinated by the cultural conceptions of this story and I don't even remember the las...moreI got really confused by this story, mostly because I'm very indoctrinated by the cultural conceptions of this story and I don't even remember the last time I read it. Needless to say, not all of the imagery in the story is the same as what we have come to associate with it via Hollywood.
The style of the story is very on the blunt side. It took me a little while to ease into the narrative and it always seemed to me that every problem they encountered was resolved very quickly: even the Wicked Witch of the West only last one chapter! For some reason I expected much more of a fight from her, but again this is just one of those associations instilled in me by popular culture.
Despite this, it is clear why this is a story that transcends time.(less)
This is one of those children’s classics that I have in a fabulous illustrated edition aimed at readers who are just starting to learn how to read. Th...moreThis is one of those children’s classics that I have in a fabulous illustrated edition aimed at readers who are just starting to learn how to read. That book, however, is in my room in France and has not been read in a good 15 years. I don’t actually remember the last time I read The Secret Garden, though I know that I’ve read it at least once on my own and had it read to me a number of times before that. Recently I was gripped by the urge to re-read this book and it was only a matter of time before I gave into it.
I soon realised that I only really remembered very little about the story, or at least of the intricacies. For example, I’d forgotten all about the Yorkshire dialect that’s used in a lot of the communications between characters. It was a joy to rediscover it, though, as much of it is the same as – or similar to – the vocabulary I use myself. The use of the dialect adds that extra dimension to Mary’s alienation on the Moors, away from everything she’s ever known.
The story itself is obviously a tad on the fantastical side in many respects but it’s also the sort of break from reality that does appeal to children. It certainly appealed to me as a child, though I’m unsure whether I retain more memories of the book or the film version. As an adult I recognise that you really do have to suspend your disbelief to an extent merely to accept how Mary gets into the locked garden in the first place.
After his wife’s death results from an unfortunate accident in her personal garden, her husband, Archibald Coven, locked the door and buries the key. Ten years later, he becomes the custodian of his niece, Mary Lennox, after both her parents die of cholera in India. Mary finds the garden to be a great enigma she wishes to unravel and soon a robin that she befriends first leads her to the key and then shows her the hidden door.
What Mary discovers behind the door is her own secret garden, one that she wants to bring back to life with the approach of spring. She enlists the help of her maid’s brother, who happens to know all about nature from having grown up on the Moors, and the two of them soon become firm friends.
Inside the old manor house there is another enigma in the form of the disembodied cries of a child that servants insist does not exist. Of course he does exist but he is hidden away. One night, Mary discovers her cousin Colin. He’s a sour child, just as spoilt and petty as Mary herself – she due to being brought up by Indian slaves who did everything to keep her quiet and out of her mother’s way; he due to being considered a cripple who will not live to adulthood and the belief that the best way to keep him in good health is to cater to his every whim.
The two cousins have quite the effect on one another as they polish the other’s character to the extent where Mary is willing to let Colin in on the secret of his mother’s garden and Colin, after a lifetime of being afraid of fresh air, is ready to venture beyond the confines of his room.
In the garden, all three children work on bringing a certain form of order to their peaceful abode and spend all day every day in their secret garden.
The author introduces here the theory of mind over matter: the “I can if I will” mantra. While it was sweet watching Colin overcoming the mental conditioning that he has been subjected to his whole life, this is probably the part of the book that requires the most suspension of disbelief, though it is also the most touching.
While reading the book it’s important to keep in mind just how much society has changed since it was written, which is something for which younger readers are less well equipped and as such may benefit from parental guidance. I know that my mother wanted to address certain topics in the book to make sure I was aware of what is and is not acceptable in our current society.
It is very easy to see why The Secret Garden has remained a firm favourite among young readers. I'll definitely be keeping my pretty illustrated version to pass on to the next generation, who will hopefully enjoy it as much as I did!(less)
This was one of my favourite books as a child. I used to read it over and over. The story is one that resounds with me as, like the families of the ma...moreThis was one of my favourite books as a child. I used to read it over and over. The story is one that resounds with me as, like the families of the main characters in the book, my family has also lost men to disasters in the coal mines.
Going back to Kit's Wilderness as an adult, it didn't have the same resounding, magical effect on me but it was still a strong story that left me with the fragile feeling of an ephemeral link to the losses of the past.(less)