The Secret Garden

The story
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is the story of Mary Lennox who moves from India to Yorkshire after her parents die. She has been given her way her whole life, and is a skinny, gaunt, spoiled, horrible child. When she moves to England, to her uncle, she is told to not go into one of the gardens, because it was her aunt’s garden and no one’s gone in since she dies. Obviously Mary finds this interesting, and she finds it. She goes in and she starts changing and becoming a less awful child. She also finds a boy in one of the hidden away rooms: her cousin Colin, who is if possible; more horrible than her.

What I thought
It’s a very sweet, sort of darling book about growing up and coming into yourself. It’s very cute. I liked Mary’s growth during the whole book, she sort of comes out of this cruel, spoiled, mean-spirited child, and learns almost instantly on arriving in Yorkshire that people won’t do whatever they’re told. She barely knows how to dress herself, and she is ten years old. When she tells her new maid to dress her she is told in no uncertain terms that she is old enough to dress herself and if she doesn’t she can wear her pajamas for the rest of the day. If she doesn’t like the food she’ll go hungry. And basically this sweet, lovable, no-nonsense maid, Martha, brings her around to look after herself.

Mary obviously doesn’t like Yorkshire when she first moves there, because she grew up in India, and Yorkshire is cold and different. Mary’s main problem is that she’s never really been loved. Her parents, her mother in particular, didn’t want her, and just dropped her off with servants. The servants only did what she wanted because they were told to and because Mary scared them. When she moves to Yorkshire she finds people who actually care about her, and who treat her decently because they want to, not because they’ve been told to, which probably does wonders for her.

Mary finds the Secret Garden pretty soon in the story, she meets an old gardener and becomes interested in growing things, and animals. The garden was locked up when Mary’s aunt died in childbirth, because it was her garden, and Mr. Craven became sad when he looked at it. She is led to the key and door by a robin, and she finds this wild overgrown place that she starts sorting out. She plants things. I thought it was really sweet. Mary sort of grows with the garden, she goes from being unkempt and sad to becoming happy, healthy and slightly wild, but much better.

Mary also finds Colin Craven, her cousin, who has spent most of his life in his bed. His father was terrified Colin would become a hunchback like him and confined him to his bed. He has servants to do everything he wants, and if he doesn’t get his way he throws epic tantrums. He does the same when he thinks he feels his hump coming in, because he’s been told his whole life he will die. Mary is the only one who has the guts to tell him to shut up when he acts like a spoiled brat, because she’s used to getting her way, and slowly Colin starts changing. He is taken out into the garden, where he meets Dickon, Martha’s brother, who has been teaching Mary how to garden. Like Mary Colin grows with the garden. He starts eating, he starts using his legs and he is really excited to show his dad that he’s become this young, healthy man. He was probably always healthy, just always told he was sick and dying.

Mr. Craven goes away in the beginning of the book and doesn’t come back until right at the end. He is a very sad man who lost the love of his life when Colin’s mother died and he is reminded of her whenever he sees his son, because they look so alike, and Mrs. Craven died in childbirth. So he has closed Colin away, and doesn’t look at him unless Colin is asleep. He goes travelling, and walks up mountains and into fjords, and he sort of regains his spirit.

The book is really a celebration of the outdoors and the restorative effect of going outside and playing in the garden, or forest. Dickon, who spends most of his life on the moor, is a healthy, strong young man, and he brings it out in Colin and Mary. Even Mr. Craven feels better after being out in nature. It was interesting to see how all three of them sort of emerged from the gloom of their losses and came into this light, warm, colorful world. And it was quite beautiful.

Final thoughts

It was sweet, nice, and I liked it. It didn’t blow me away, but I quite liked it.