The Secret Garden Book Review: A Paean to Nature

Houghton_AC85_B9345_911s_-_Secret_Garden,_1911_-_frontispieceThe Telegraph released their list of Top 21 Books in Children’s Literature recently. Charlotte’s Web was voted the best children’s book of all time. I jumped for joy. 🙂 I think I won’t feel exhausted if I write about the brilliance of Charlotte’s Web even a hundred times. Lovely book!

Out of those 21 books, I have read only two. Winnie The Pooh besides Charlotte’s Web. Since, I have been reading a lot of children’s literature this year, I decided to read more from the list. Fortunately, Amazon offers free download of quite a few classics on Kindle, and I was delighted to grab my copies.

I started reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett first.

From the beginning, for some reason, the narrator of The Secret Garden sounded like an old man to me; an endearing old man, who can recount intriguing stories from his time, and who would also tease his listeners’s patience often, by supplying too many details about people, and places. His embellishments might make me restless, but I would choose to endure it for the story.

Mary Lennox – a 10-year-old ill-humoured and boorish child – is sent to her uncle in Yorkshire, England, after she loses her parents in India. She lives with her uncle and his kind domestic staff in Misselthwaite Manor – an enormous house with hundreds of rooms, corridors, and numerous patches of gardens. The Secret Garden initially follows Mary, but two more interesting characters emerge later. Mary is told that she should stay away from one of the gardens, for something unfortunate happened there. But, the curious child ignores the order, and explores the forbidden place. From then on, she is not the same Mary anymore. The wind, plants, animals, make Mary fall in love with every beautiful thing. Nature teaches her a subtle lesson about life.

The Secret Garden made me smile several times – when the narrator gushed about the moor, when Mary mustered courage to talk to her uncle, and when the sagacious Martha discussed her large family with Mary. On the other hand, the book made me squirm, when it turned a bit preachy towards the end. I realised that Burnett had aimed at making children appreciate positive thinking. However, those passages reminded me of Rhonda Byrne‘s The Secret. Perhaps, it didn’t work for me because I didn’t enjoy The Secret too. Again, maybe, it is just the cynical me. 🙂

Almost every book introduces me to at least one fascinating, inspiring character. I want to hug them. I want to pour my heart out to some. Or, I want to simply invite some for coffee. In The Secret Garden, I met Dickon, an animal charmer. The free-spirited child befriended every animal in the moor – from a three-day-old lamb to a fox cub. They all trusted him. I found that more impressive. They were themselves around him. Every once in a while, he played the pipe to them, and the soothing music put them to sleep. His character was slightly reminiscent of Krishna from Mahabharata, who enchanted cows and calves by playing flute, and Otis, a convict from Because of Winn-Dixie, who would play music to alleviate caged animals’s stress in a pet shop.

Dickon’s animals’s names were as cute as himself – A fox cub was Captain, a crow was Soot, two squirrels were Nut and Shell, and a pony was Jump. If I were given a chance to trade my life with a literary character, perhaps I would want to live Dickon’s life. 🙂

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