Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

"The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after her fromone bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very gussy air, as if he were showing her things. Everything was strange and silent and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from anyone, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all."

Mary Lennox is a spoiled brat. Growing up in India, she has all that her heart desires except the love of her parents, who habitually ignore her. An illness sweeps through the house and Mary, having nowhere left to go, is sent to live with her mysterious uncle, Archibald Craven, in England. The manor is large and scary, dominated by head housekeeper, Mrs. Meadlock who keeps an iron grip over the staff. Mary still sallow and sour keeps to herself and hears strange noises in the night. It isn't until one day when she discovers a garden that everything changes.

When Mary first arrives at Misselthwaite Manor everyone and everything seems to be in a state of dormancy. Mary lacks the skills to function as a normal human being; the manor has rooms closed off she even hears rumours of an old garden, overgrown and lost. Over time Mary starts to heal, psychologically and physically. As she learns to open up to the world, she also brings back life into the manor and garden.

Burnett's writing for the most part is standard fare for a children's book but on occasion she crafts these gorgeous paragraphs, most often when describing the garden. "I think it has been left alone so long-that it has grown all into a lovely tangle. I think the roses have climbed and climbed and climbed until they hang from the branches and walls and creep over the ground-almost like a strange gray mist. Some of them have died but many-are alive and when the summer comes there will be curtains and fountains of roses. I think the ground is full of daffodils and snowdrops and lilies and iris working their way out of the dark. Now the spring has begun-perhaps-perhaps."

Reading this from an adult perspective, I don't think I got as much out of it as I would have if I were a child. I enjoyed the story but I've found other children's stories that I enjoyed more as an adult.

Rating: 3/5

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