Tuesday, May 29, 2012

REVIEW: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This edition published 2011 by Penguin.

What can I possibly say about a book like The Secret Garden? It's a classic. Just, a classic.

As some of you may know I'm absolutely bonkers about the Penguin Threads series, a collection of six classics published with incredible embroidered covers; this edition of The Secret Garden was included in the first batch, which came out last year and features illustrations by fiber artist Jillian Tamaki. And what's fun too is when you open the book the back of the cover shows the back of the stitching! As a stitcher myself I just love these books and while I wanted to collect them all, I settled on The Secret Garden because it's one of those books I've always meant to read.

Now, I've seen film adaptations so I knew the story, but what I didn't know was just how marvelous the book is. If you're not familiar with it, it's the story of little Mary Lennox, a spoiled rich girl living in India with her parents. Her parents die, and she is brought to England to live with her gloomy uncle, Archibald Craven, in his rambling and gloomy estate in Yorkshire. But Mary soon finds that Yorkshire agrees with her, and she discovers a secret garden, locked and abandoned since the death ten years ago of Archibald Craven's wife. She left something else behind when she died too, which Mary hears crying in the house's long hallways.

This book was just wonderful from start to finish. Burnett's narration is compassionate and knowing, loving and clear-eyed at the same time. She doesn't romanticize the children or childhood but presents the children with respect and realism. At the same time though, she draws us into the incredible world that they discover and then create for themselves. Her lush and vivid descriptions of the house, the Yorkshire moors and of course the garden itself make the setting come alive for the reader just as they do for Mary and Colin and Dickon (Archibald's forgotten son and his servant's son respectively). The adults in the story are also complicated and interesting people, though Burnett saves the richest interior lives for the children.

Everyone should read The Secret Garden. Everyone!

"And delight reigned."

Rating: BUY!

Buy it online from Powell's.com:
I'm a Powell's partner and receive a small commission on sales.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

13 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Such a pretty cover on this edition. Make me want to buy it:)

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've seen the movie, like, 35 times. It is magical. So I've always told myself that I need to read this. I actually DID read A Little Princess after loving that movie but I flipped out because I discovered that the movie totally went Hollywood and changed the ending. I hope the integrity of this story wasn't changed!

Marie said...

Sandy, I haven't read A Little Princess but I'm kind of surprised to hear that! If Penguin does a Threads edition of it I'll probably buy it though! As far as this one, the ending wasn't what I expected exactly but it was fine- the movie versions I saw show the kids as adults. that doesn't happen in the book but the book still has a very happy ending.

bermudaonion said...

I've never read the book or seen the movie. :\ That edition looks like it is just gorgeous!

Audra said...

I love this book although I haven't read it as an adult -- I should! And I just adore the Threads editions -- so gorgeous!

Chris Thompson said...

Great cover art! What are the other books that are a part of the Threads series?

Zibilee said...

I have never read this book, and feel like I have missed something crucial. I would love to get my hands on a copy of this edition and read it over the summer, while I am sitting on the porch looking at the birds in the garden. It seems the perfect way to read this book. Wonderful and very enticing review today, Marie. This is going on my summer wish list.

Aarti said...

I recently tried to read Burnett's The Making of a Marchioness and could not get through it. The racism was so prevalent and disturbing to me that I just stopped reading it. I remember enjoying The Secret Garden when I was younger (though I don't think I loved it), but I don't think I'll be reading it again because Burnett bothered me so much with the Marchioness book. I just can't do it again!

Marce said...

I read for the first time last year, absolutely magical, what an amazing read. I can't wait for my daughter to be old enough for us to read together.

It truly is Timeless....

Anna said...

I've seen those embroidered covers; I've been coveting Emma. I've never read this book, but I know The Girl has a copy somewhere, so I'm going to have to borrow it from her.

Tasha B. said...

I read The Secret Garden in my early 20s. My grandparents had gotten me one of those classic editions when I was a kid, but I never showed any interest in reading it until then for some reason. It really is a delightful read! Engaging from beginning to end.

Marie said...

Chris: Black Beauty, Emma, The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz and Little Women.

Kathleen said...

I love the Penguin series too. The covers are phenomenal! I have to have this one.