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‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett *****

This review was first published in 2013, but after recently dipping back into the novel, all fangirling about it still stands.

sg4

Colin, Mary and Dickon in the 1993 film version

There are many tales from my childhood which I absolutely adore (The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Madeline, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.), but The Secret Garden is my absolute favourite.  I watched the VHS of the 1993 film so often when I was younger that I managed to wear it out.

The story in The Secret Garden is lovely.  On the surface of it, the plot seems rather simple – a young girl is sent to England after the death of her parents during a cholera epidemic, and is forced to stay in the middle of nowhere (rural Yorkshire, to be precise) with a mysterious uncle whom she does not know.  At first Mary Lennox, the young girl in question, is lonely, but her inherent stubbornness allows her to make the best of her situation.  Those who persevere with her – the kindly maid Martha, for example – alter her personality, and she begins to care about those around her in consequence.  Mary finds out about a secret walled garden which belonged to her aunt, and which has been shut up since her death.  She vows to resurrect it with the help of kindly Martha’s lovely brother, Dickon.

9780143106456_SecretGarden_ClaDlx.indd

‘The Secret Garden’ Penguin Threads edition

What complexities there are creep into the plot almost immediately.  Hodgson Burnett weaves ever such a lot of different details into the story – life in colonial India, disparities between different societies around the world, cholera, disability, death, suffering, the bleakness of surroundings, loneliness, the building of relationships and an appreciation of the natural world.  I absolutely adore all of the characters in their own ways.  Mary is headstrong – amusingly so at times – and her determination is often rather inspiring.  Mrs Medlock is nowhere near as awful as the film makes her out to be (Maggie Smith’s portrayal of her did used to frighten me a little, I admit), and she does have compassion for her charge.  Colin, despite his petulant nature and obsession with having a lump on his back like his father’s, is rather adorable.

I adore Hodgson Burnett’s writing style.  With it, she has crafted a beautiful and memorable tale which gets better with every read, and she has introduced me to some of the finest literary characters I could ever hope to meet.  The Secret Garden is an utterly enchanting novel, and the story and its characters will always have a place within my heart.  I love the way in which they grow and develop as the story progresses, and their interactions with one another have been portrayed so well.  A truly heartwarming tale, and a perfect summery read.

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Favourite Books from my Childhood: Two

Following on from my first childhood favourites post, here are some more of the treasured books which I adored when I was small.

Noddy

Noddy by Enid Blyton – Even my younger sister, who categorically does not read, enjoyed these books when she was little, so that says a lot about how adorable they are.  The cartoon was a favourite of ours.  There are many books in the series, and I am sure that they are likely to charm adults just as much as children.

The Magic Faraway Tree, Up the Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – It goes without saying that these books are absolutely delightful.  The pleasure and peril within the tales has been wonderfully balanced, and I still absolutely love them now.  The same goes for Blyton’s marvellous Wishing Chair stories.  All of the books are filled with the most wonderful characters which a child could hope to meet.  Favourites of mine are the lovely Silky and the marvellously grumpy Moon Face.

The Famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton – Filled with adventure.  A lot of my copies of the Famous Five date from the 1930s and 1940s, and I have had the greatest fun of late re-reading the lovely Secret Seven boxset of books which I received for Christmas.

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond – Paddington, that marmalade-loving, macintosh-wearing ball of fluff, is one of the most charming bears in literature.  He is always off having adventures, and each story in the series is written to be treasured.  I don’t think I will ever grow up when there is children’s literature like this in the world.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs – So delightful, and a story which I happily revisit every Christmas Eve.

Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley – I was always enchanted by little Millicent-Margaret-Amanda (you can see why she has a nickname, can’t you?) when I was little, and I loved reading about the lovely things she did in her little village.

Babar

Babar by Jean de Brunhoff – My Mum loves these stories just as much as I do.  Babar is the loveliest of elephants, and his family is absolutely adorable.  The illustrations and tales which de Brunhoff has created are an utter delight.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This is one of the first films which I ever remember watching, and it has remained my favourite ever since.  I think I have read this book about a dozen times already, and I still find it absolutely enchanting.  You can find my full Secret Garden review here.

Hushabye by John Burningham – I was a little too old for this book when I read it, but I did so to a baby cousin of mine, and was absolutely charmed by the simple, lullaby-esque story and the beautiful watercolour illustrations.  I did love Burningham’s work when I was little myself, and he was lovely to revisit when I was a little older.

Percy the Park Keeper by Nick Butterworth – I absolutely loved these tales and the accompanying cartoon.  A particular favourite of mine was One Snowy Night.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – To say that I was obsessed with this book when I was small is not an understatement.  I absolutely loved it, and now, quite a few years on, I own a lovely Hungry Caterpillar mug and set of badges.

Purchase these books from the Book Depository

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‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett

sg4

Colin, Mary and Dickon in the 1993 film version

There are many tales from my childhood which I absolutely adore (The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Madeline, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.), but The Secret Garden is my absolute favourite.  I watched the VHS of the 1993 film so often when I was younger that I managed to wear it out.

The story in The Secret Garden is lovely.  On the surface of it, the plot seems rather simple – a young girl is sent to England after the death of her parents during a cholera epidemic, and is forced to stay in the middle of nowhere (rural Yorkshire, to be precise) with a mysterious uncle whom she does not know.  At first Mary Lennox, the young girl in question, is lonely, but her inherent stubbornness allows her to make the best of her situation.  Those who persevere with her – the kindly maid Martha, for example – alter her personality, and she begins to care about those around her in consequence.  Mary finds out about a secret walled garden which belonged to her aunt, and which has been shut up since her death.  She vows to resurrect it with the help of kindly Martha’s lovely brother, Dickon.

9780143106456_SecretGarden_ClaDlx.indd

‘The Secret Garden’ Penguin Threads edition

What complexities there are creep into the plot almost immediately.  Hodgson Burnett weaves ever such a lot of different details into the story – life in colonial India, disparities between different societies around the world, cholera, disability, death, suffering, the bleakness of surroundings, loneliness, the building of relationships and an appreciation of the natural world.  I absolutely adore all of the characters in their own ways.  Mary is headstrong – amusingly so at times – and her determination is often rather inspiring.  Mrs Medlock is nowhere near as awful as the film makes her out to be (Maggie Smith’s portrayal of her did used to frighten me a little, I admit), and she does have compassion for her charge.  Colin, despite his petulant nature and obsession with having a lump on his back like his father’s, is rather adorable.

I adore Hodgson Burnett’s writing style.  With it, she has crafted a beautiful and memorable tale which gets better with every read, and she has introduced me to some of the finest literary characters I could ever hope to meet.  The Secret Garden is an utterly enchanting novel, and the story and its characters will always have a place within my heart.  I love the way in which they grow and develop as the story progresses, and their interactions with one another have been portrayed so well.  A truly heartwarming tale, and a perfect summery read.