Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

It took The Secret Garden and TWO Narnia books to get me out of the...ahem...melancholy that I was plunged into after reading Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk.

I read (on a no-work-at-all day in the office) and read and reveled in the garden and in the robin and Mistress Mary Quite Contrary and Dickon and Colin and Martha and Ben Weatherstaff. There, I have given you almost the entire list of characters. The thing is, this is only the second time that I was reading The Secret Garden and it instantly transported me back to my eight year old self experiencing the first delicious high that this book gives. And, well, I am a fan.

Sallow skinned, ill tempered little Mary Lennox is sent from India to Misselthwaite Manor (her uncle's house) in Yorkshire, England, when her parents die of cholera. Mary is a dreadfully spoilt child who has grown up entirely in the care of her ayah and other servants. She does not know anything of a mother's love and in turn becomes cold, selfish and ill mannered. She arrives in Yorkshire and is put under the chief care of the housekeeper Mrs. Medlock and the housemaid Martha. Lonely, contrary little Mary initially feels lost in such a big house but the huge gardens and the Yorkshire moors soon draw her out. She slowly gains health and makes friends with the crusty gardener Ben and the in-house robin. But Misselthwaite Manor contains more than just servants and endless gardens. Why does Mr.Craven never live at home? Why is the house so shut up and gloomy? And what is that walled garden with the secret door that no one is supposed to go into?

In spite of herself Mary changes for the better and out of pure luck, one day the robin shows Mary where the key to the garden has been buried and where the secret door is. Mary is enchanted and hugs this secret all to herself except for Dickon (Martha's brother) who is a wonderful boy with an up-turned nose and round blue eyes. Dickon is friends with every animal and every plant and every bird and every tree and soon, Mary and Dickon start on a secret mission to revive this lovely Secret Garden that none should enter and none seem to talk about. But Misselthwaite Manor contains one secret yet: Whom does Mary hear crying at night?

The Secret Garden is pure magic. It is one of the most life affirming books that I have ever read; if I enjoyed it at eight, I know that I will enjoy it at eighty. It is delightful to read how fresh air, wholesome food and innocent frolic turns around the life of two miserable little children. The message that the book gives out is: it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor; just let love and magic grow. However impractical this thought might be in today's cynical world, it feels amazing to indulge oneself and just think of it really being true. And well, why not?

If I had a secret garden, I would retain many of the elements from the one in the book; mine would be walled and covered fully with ivy. It would have a little green door where one would have to bend to enter. It would be like a mad cottage garden with all manners of flowers in a riot of colour. I would have trailing vines and let squirrels and birds make friends with me and my garden. I would have trailing roses, a big shady mango or an apple tree (do they even grow in the same climate??) with a comfortable wicker chair below it. Oh, and I would have lots and lots of honeysuckle. If I had this garden, I would quit my job and just read there the whole day; because in my garden, time would stand still.

What about you? How would you like your Secret Garden to be?

Note: I have attached a picture of the author. I searched for a suitable picture of a secret garden in Google images but could not find any that really caught my fancy. Hence the verbal sketch. Feel free to give me your ideas :-) And do read this book if you already haven't. I went about with such a dopey grin on my face for the rest of the day.


Veens said...

i have just wanted this books for so long. I know I want secret garden something that makes me smile :) I have not yet figured out what that would be.

Anonymous said...

Loved the review. You have made me badly want to read this book now! :)

Your garden sounds lovely! :)

Rajarshi Chattaraj said...

Orhan Pamuk has a gift for being melancholy, and rather depressing at times. I had had quite enough of his Nobel-standard stuff when I painstakingly finished reading 'Snow'. I would have recommended it to you, but its not what a well-wisher would do.
Lovely review, this one.

Brenna said...

This sounds like a lovely book. I never read it as a child. I'll put it on my TBR and keep in mind that I should read it when I need something uplifting.

Anonymous said...

Ah, The Secret Garden! I loved that book when I was a kid. It was a beautiful book. I should re read it.

My Secret Garden, well, it should allow people to come in only when I want and those whom I want. It *should* have a swing and have lots of trees, a fountain by which you have a nice chair (not a park bench,) but a nice comfy chair where I can sit and read.
AND, an endless supply of tea would be perfect. :D

Whitney said...

After reading your review, I feel a huge gap in my childhood reading. I need to read The Secret Garden now!

Oh, and your garden sounds divine :)

Kals said...

This is a lovely review that makes me regret, yet again, that I have not read The Secret Garden till now!

Bedazzled said...

I have to have to read this book !!! i need a feel good book after a heavy one too.. i abandoned istanbul because i just couldn't cope with the darkness of the writing .

Vaishnavi said...

@Veens, Priya, Whitney, Brenna, Kals and Bedazzeld - thanks for your lovely comments. Do read this book. It is special!

@Rajarshi - Hi and welcome here! I sort of agree with you though it is a sore point to admit it! And thanks :)

@xoxymoronx - Hi and welcome here! Your garden sounds lovely! :)

Josie said...

Reading your review I am also eight years old again when I first read this beautiful story, and like you I am also looking for my own secret garden. My garden would also be walled, but instead ov ivy would be covered with trailing rosemary, thyme, lemon geranimum, jasmine, honeysuckle, roses and grapevines.