The Secret Garden

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden was the first really difficult book I ever read. At first I made my way through pretty easily, although I had almost no idea how to picture the first chapters that took place in India, until Martha, the English servant, builds a fire in Mary Lennox’s room. As soon as she spoke, I was stuck. Not able to understand a word she said, I went to my mom, and she read it aloud to me, helping me, at least partially, to understand the thick Yorkshire accents that Frances Hodgson Burnett so brilliantly recreates. I don’t remember if she read the whole thing to me, or if she just helped me when I was very stuck, but she got me through it, and I have since read this book all by myself many times!

An intricate read, this is a 3 on the 5-star Reading System

Filled with the magic of nature, the mystery of humanity, and the questions of maturing childhood, The Secret Garden is a window into the human heart. Burnett delves into the beauty we find in the earth and the sickness and weakness that accompanies a child who does not play outside and stretch their imagination. Ultimately, it is a story of how parents and guardians fall short of their duties when they keep their children well fed, well clothed, but wrapped up in a box, removed from love and nature.

Mary Lennox and her cousin Colin both suffer, though they do not know it, from lack of real love, real human connections, and real outdoor play, despite the fact that they have been given everything material that is essential for life. It is not until Martha and Dickon Sowerby enter their lives that they begin to really live. Martha and Dickon are direct opposites of Mary and Colin for they are healthy, vibrant children, although they are often hungry and are stuffed into a small cottage with ten other siblings. But they ascribe their health to growing up on the moors and allowing their imaginations to run wild, and they encourage this in Mary and Colin. Although they benefit from being outside, the biggest hole in the cousins lives comes from the neglect of Colin’s father and Mary’s uncle, Archibald Craven, who refuses to even speak to his own son.

When Dickon, Mary, and Colin find a secret walled garden forgotten among scores of others, they begin to cultivate the earth and create their own little paradise, and it is this cultivation that leads to a magic transformation.

“She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

If you like stories of adventure, nature, friendship, and beauty, read it now!

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done–then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Get The Secret Garden; or the gorgeous hardcover edition (My affiliated links policy)

Best Librivox recording (dramatic reading); Project Gutenberg

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” 

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Author Biography

Author Frances Hodgson Burnett was born on Nov. 24, 1849 in Manchester, England. The playwright and author was best known for her children’s novels, including Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. She also wrote several adult novels including Through One Administration about corruption in Washington, D.C., in 1883 and later a historical novel called A Lady of Qualityin 1896. She moved to America in the early 1900s and became a U.S. citizen. Frances Hodgson Burnett died in 1924 at the age of 74.

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Artwork by Inga Moore and Charles Robinson

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