A Secret Worth Sharing: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 1911.

A book ahead of its times! The ending is so oddly in tune with contemporary thought on happiness and depression, Burnett could have written Burns’ classic self-help tome, Feeling Good. That aside, the timeless story is one of survival and friendship -- two little wretches who grow into healthy, strong, loving young people. Interesting isn’t it that research shows those who live close to nature are happier than city-dwellers? Burnett didn’t need a study to know it. More thoughts of note:

  • The writing is decidedly lovely. So Thomas Hardy but with more joy, less romanticism and angst (though not without a touch of angst!). You could open it to almost any page and get a passage like this: “Fair fresh leaves, and buds—and buds—tiny at first but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over their brims and filling the garden air” (283). The narrator voice is close to characters and reader and though seldom addresses the reader directly, involves him or her in the telling of the story.
  • A rare story in which none of the central characters are at all likeable. Mary is cross and sullen and ugly. Colin is a wretched brat. And Colin’s father is depressed and self-absorbed. Yet the narrator gives us reason for the children’s flaws such that we forgive them long enough to allow change. And change they do. Masterful, worthy of status of classic.