Publisher: Children’s Classics
Release Date: First published 1911
Summary (from Goodreads):
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty–unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.
I know I’ve read this book before, but I really couldn’t remember it at all when I started reading this time round, ready for the #ReturntotheGarden blog tour, so it was like reading a brand new book.
By far my favourite thing about this book is how unlikeable both Mary and Colin are for the majority of the book. It’s great to not have main characters who are always beautiful and bright and charming: Mary is none of these things, and that just makes her feel more real.
The story may feel a little predictable, but that’s probably because it’s such a classic. Of course, when Mary hears about the hidden garden she’s going to resolve to find it. And of course, when she hears a child crying at night, she’s going to find him. And of course, during theses events both sour faced children are going to learn to become better people. It might sound pretty standard but it doesn’t make the story any less charming.
What really comes across in the book is how much Frances Hodgson Burnett loves gardens and plants. You can feel the passion behind the wonderful descriptions as the secret garden slowly comes to life under Mary’s eager hands and Dickon’s experienced ones.
One thing I did struggle with in this book was the Yorkshire accent. I found it really jarring, the way it was written. I think dialogue in classics can be tricky at the best of times, as they can be so different to how we speak today, but with the added complexity of the Yorkshire accent it did slow my reading down as I tried to figure out the words.
There is no doubt that this book is a wonderful children’s classic and it’s one I can imagine reading to my children in the future.