The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett — Reread Review


Having not read The Secret Garden since I was in my early teens, I’d forgotten quite how much the book focuses on my favourite thing: character development. Mary begins the novel as a demanding, antisocial brat who has no idea how to make herself, or anyone else, happy. Not only that, but the narrative likes to explicitly point out how much she’s changing. The Secret Garden, like What Katy Did and Pollyanna, is one of those books that makes me want to be a better person.

Four good things had happened to her, in fact, since she came to Misselthwaite Manor, she had felt as if she had understood the robin and that he had understood her; she had run in the wind until her blood had grown warm; she had been healthily hungry for the first time in her life; and she had found out what it was to be sorry for someone. She was getting on.

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

And yet, despite the fact that my mum was an extremely keen gardener, I have no desire to go out and get myself ‘a bit of earth’ — even if such a thing were possible, living in London. And Colin’s belief in ‘the Magic [of positive thinking]’ comes across a little too much like The Secret with its law of attraction and vision boards. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, Frances Hodgson Burnett presumably wanted to write a compelling story, and not a self-help guide, so the fact that there’s little concrete advice to take away from The Secret Garden shouldn’t be a mark against it.

Dickon made the stimulating discovery that in the wood in the park outside the garden where Mary had first found him piping to the wild creatures, there was a deep little hollow where you could build a sort of tiny oven with stones and roast potatoes and eggs in it. Roasted eggs were a previously unknown luxury, and very hot potatoes with salt and fresh butter in them were fit for a woodland king — besides being deliciously satisfying.

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

One detail I really enjoyed on this reread was the character of Susan Sowerby — I’d forgotten that Dickon was Martha’s brother, and that their mother was featured at all. She’s a fabulous maternal figure, and I particularly liked that even Mrs Medlock had respect for her.

The Secret Garden would be a really good book to read in the spring. Even in summer, however, I did grow my very first blue rose in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, so clearly the Magic does work, at least a little bit.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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