Book Review: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Blurb:

“Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it. But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend it, a change comes over her and her life. She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.”

(source: amazon.co.uk)

 

What I thought:

Am I the only person in the entire history of the world who didn’t read this book as a child? Was I deprived of books, I hear you ask, were my parents paper-hating non-bibliophiles? No, not at all! My parents were both teachers and were always reading to me and encouraging me to read my own books (which, of course, I did). So why then did this book pass me by? The answer eludes me, but hey – it’s been rectified and charmingly so.

When I received a copy of this gorgeous looking book in the post from Oxford World Classics, I knew it was high time I read this book. I had heard great things, knew it was a classic and pretty damn sure I would enjoy it and all the ingredients for a fun read were there. What I wasn’t prepared for was just HOW much I’d love it! Frances Hodgson Burnett is a funny lady – who knew??!

The book starts off with the incredibly spoilt Mary Lennox being taken back to England from India where she has lived all her life with her doting father and indulgent servants. She is sent to stay at the house of an uncle she has never met in the wilds of Yorkshire and she doesn’t like it one bit! At first she refuses to eat breakfast and mopes around feeling sorry for herself, but when she goes outside and reaslises how wonderful the moors and the gardens and grounds of the large, looming house are Mary begins to enjoy herself, especially when she finds an entrance to a secret garde that has been shut away for 10 years.

The characterisation is what made this book come alive for me.  Mary and her two contempraries, Colin and Dickon, make an interesting trio (although do bear in mind when reading this that it was written in Edwardian times otherwise invalid Colin may grate on your nerves for being a pompous, bossy wimp rather than a sign of the times and circumstance).

If you haven’t read this book yet (are there more people out there besides me?) then I insist that you pick it up! It’s wonderful, twee, humorous and the perfect escapism into a childhood long gone. Loved it.

(source: I received my copy of this book from OWC)

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32 thoughts on “Book Review: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  1. I have not read this, but I’m not a native English speaker so it wasn’t part of my childhood or of my country’s culture.

    It sounds very good, well, I know lots of people have read it and said that so I do feel I must read it sometime. When I bump into it, I will!

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  2. I’ll side with Leeswammes on this one, not a native English speaker, missed out on a lot of must-reads for children.
    It seems like a wonderful book that is still a good read for adults. Thanks for the review, I’ll have to add this to my tbr list 🙂

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  3. I’m so happy you had a chance to read this beautiful novel. For me, it was the beginning of becoming a lifelong book lover. The first time I read it was a magical experience, although in retrospect, I missed so much. I remember hiding under the covers with a flashlight, propping it up against the sink as I brushed my teeth, sneaking it out of my desk to read while the teacher taught… I couldn’t put it down. I remember reading it to my daughter and not letting her see the Shirley Temple movie version. Your post has inspired me to find my copy and read it again. Yes, I still have my original copy! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I’m so glad you liked it. It was one of my favorites as a girl, and I read it over and over. You know, it may have been my first real exposure to England, now that I think about it. Perhaps the gorgeous descriptions of the English countryside are party of the reason I’m such an Anglophile now. I’ll have to add that to my list of places I want to visit when I finally get to the UK-Cornwall (for King Arthur-I know, I’m a geek that way), and Yorkshire. Plus a visit to Wales after the Susan Cooper books…and wherever the Pevensie children were sent during the war…hmmm…

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  5. This was one of my favourite books as a child together with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (very gothic!) and Little Lord Fauntleroy. I’ve also watched the film version:)

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  6. I remember one day getting a package in the mail from Gradmother. Inside was the Secert Garden. It was her favorite book as a little girl, and she wanted to share it with. I read it, and I loved it. It is a special link that was formed between my Grandma and I at the moment. From that time on we shared books with each other.

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  7. I reviewed the same book today. As I’m not a native English speaker either I read it last week for the first time.
    I thought the story to be cute and often funny but too repetitive for my taste. I often wanted the plot to develop a little faster. I still recommend it.

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  8. This was one of my favorite books as a kind, I remember sneaking a couple of extra pages in under the cover with a flashlight after bedtime. It’s one of those stories that never failed to completely absorb me into another (better?) world! I’m so glad you liked it! 😀

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  9. My favorite children’s-book-I-read-as-an-adult. It create a great atmosphere os mystery and isolation without going into magic stuff. And I loooved Dickon.

    Don’t you also wish that they had written a sequel?

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  10. I just got this yesterday, only guess which edition? Yes!! The Robert Ingpen one. His illustrations are to die for!!

    The only thing that bothers me a little is the dialect. I’d be okay to hear it, but to read it is a bit difficult for me.

    PS. It’s being done here as a musical, in Toronto, if you can imagine!

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  11. I had a beautiful hardback copy of this when I was a kid, with the Tasha Tudor illustrations. I mightily identified with Mary when she went and screamed at Colin to shut up and stop his hysterics — my little sister was prone to tantrums her own self. :p

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  12. You are not alone and I have to confess to never having read this book either… Must rectify. I’ll see if I cna pick up a copy in my local Library tomorrow, or may have to pop up to borders to see if they have one in stock. Hope it’s as pretty a cover as yours looks.

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