‘The Secret Garden’ is my one of my favourite childhood books. It tells the story of Mary who, after the death of her parents to Cholera in India, moves to England to live with her uncle. There, left to her own devices, she tries to uncover the secrets of the house: where is the garden that has been shut up for 10 years and who is crying in the middle on the night?
This is essentially a story about childhood. While there is a mystery, the growth of Mary and her friendship with Dickon and Colin take centre-stage. It is enjoyable to see how Mary’s character, and indeed Colin’s, develops as the novel goes on and you can’t miss the overt message of how important friendship and the outdoors is to children.
More than that, however, the novel is just fun. I read it after reading Les Miserables, and it was so nice being able to read something easy and familiar. I was able to properly switch off and enjoy the story without worrying about the language or missing any important part of the story. Despite the easy language, it is incredibly well-written. Frances Hodgeson Burnett, the author, knows how to craft a story with defined characters and a world that the reader can sink into.
My main problem with the novel was Burnett’s use of dialect – she wrote the words to mirror a thick Yorkshire dialect and, as a result, I had some trouble deciphering what the words said. I also thought that Burnett’s treatment of India was a bit difficult to read – there was very little respect for the people there and it was heavily implied that living in India was what caused Mary to be a pasty, infuriating child and that England was what made her ‘better’. That grated with me and did detract from the Novel’s overall appeal.
That being said, I did enjoy the novel when the focus was on the children and their various scheming and fun. I do love the book, and would recommend people to read it, as it is enjoyable. Not to mention, its theme of playing outdoors inspired me to go running, which pretty much says it all.