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