One of my all-time favorite books is The Secret Garden.
"When Mary Lennox was sent to Mistlethwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true too."
Isn't that a wonderful beginning? A preface I once read, I think it was to another book, talks about the importance of getting rid of parental figures in children's literature. The problem, the author of the preface wrote, is how do you get rid of the parents without traumatizing the young reader? Most books have the children in boarding school, summer camp, visiting slightly fuzzy grandparents. Not The Secret Garden. Mary Lennox's parents die painfully of cholera in the first chapter. But it is made clear that Mary couldn't have cared less about her parents. Many people never even knew they had a child. She is a hideous child, spoiled rotten. Ten years old and still having screaming temper tantrums. What a fabulous character!
After her parents die, Mary is sent to England to live. The house she lives in has hundreds of rooms, half of them locked up. It also has extensive grounds which include a walled garden whose door was locked and the key buried ten years ago. The mystery of the garden, the strangeness of the isolated and lonely house conspire to make Mary think of something other than herself. When she finds her way into the garden and discovers the secret of Mistlethwaite Manor, she blooms along with the roses she tends.
That preface I mentioned above made another point. If Frances Hodgeson Burnett had merely called this book The Garden, it'd be a pleasant book about how gardening and exercise make you a nicer, healthier person. But by calling it The Secret Garden, by locking it away and hiding the key....now the reader is intrigued, even as our heroine is.
Through My Glasses, Dorkily
6 years ago