Goodreads: The Secret Garden
After the death of her parents, Mary Lennox arrives in England to live with her uncle in his manor on the moor. Though he provides her with all the worldly comforts she could desire, her uncle avoids her and Mary is left alone to wander the corridors and explore the gardens. One garden in particular captures her imagination–the one her uncle locked ten years ago after the death of his wife. Mary believes that if she can only find the key, she will be happy forever. But can the garden also restore happiness to her uncle?
The Secret Garden contains many elements that seem to belong more to a Gothic novel than to a children’s classic. Neglected and alone, Mary Lennox wanders the corridors of her uncles manor, chasing the phantom sobbings she hears in the night. In the day, she attempts to pry information about the forbidden garden from the tight-lipped servants. Always there lurks behind her the image of her uncle–a hunchback who lives in the past and casts shadows over the present. The book should be creepy, if not a little sensational, and yet it is enchanting. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s love of nature outshines all the melancholy and gloom, inviting readers to enter a magical world where anything can happen.
And what a cast of characters peoples that world! From Ben Weatherstaff the gruff old gardener to Dickon Sowerby the animal charmer, all of them delight, whether it be because of their charm, their quirks, or their unexpected honesty. Though the story they inhabit sometimes borders on the cliche, they somehow transcend their stereotypes, so that none of them is ever simply that “too talkative maidservant” or that “severe housekeeper” but always Martha Sowerby or Mrs. Craven. They seem like people one could meet, people one would like to meet.
The real star of the story is, however, the titular garden. Burnett delights in the details of nature, lingering over each blossom, each ray of sunlight. Readers are with her there beyond the locked door, racing silently from tree to tree and watching the miracle of spring unfold. Fantasy works are extolled for their ability to transport readers to another world and to show them wonders, but Burnett shows in The Secret Garden that the world around us can be just as magical.
Some stories that are considered children’s classics fail to cast the same enchantment when opened again by an older reader. The Secret Garden, however, is just as charming as I remember. With its unabashed love of the natural world and its promise of miracles, it is always a refreshing, cheering read.
*This post is part of the Year of Re-Reading Challenge being hosted by Lianne at Caffeinated Life.