Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Major Themes: Gardens, Childhood, Love
Synopsis: A spoiled little girl is sent from India to England after her parents die, where she discovers a locked garden and learns to be lovable.
I first read The Secret Garden many years ago. I couldn’t remember much of the story, except that I hadn’t liked it, so when I found a copy at a secondhand shop recently I decided to get it and see what my reaction would be now. I love the storyline—it’s great—but there is a major problem, in my opinion.
The story opens with a cholera epidemic in India, which kills Mary’s parents. Ten-year-old Mary, who has never known what it is to love or be loved, is sent to England to live with an uncle. The uncle is withdrawn and not interested in anyone since his beloved wife died ten years before. A garden is mentioned, which has been locked up since the wife died. This intrigues Mary, who for the first time in her life finds herself interested in something outside of herself. She discovers the secret garden and as she begins working in it she starts coming to life and becoming more agreeable. Then, when she hears crying in another part of the old house, she discovers an invalid boy—her ten-year-old cousin who she didn’t even know existed! He, too, has never known what it is to love and be loved, and is extremely self-centered, demanding that everyone bow to his whims. She stands up to him, and introduces him to the secret garden, and he, too, is changed by the experience and becomes healthy and agreeable to be around.
As I said before, the basic story in The Secret Garden is wonderful. However, no credit is given to God for the healing and growth. The children constantly talk about “Magic” as healing the boy, “Magic” as making plants grow, and “Magic” as causing everything to happen. If that had only been mentioned a few times, I could have overlooked it, but the last half of the book talked about it over and over.
And now, a note about abridged versions of books. The copy I picked up from the secondhand shop was abridged. I also found an unabridged version, so compared several chapters, out of curiosity. I found that a lot of details that were taken out in the first part of the book created a little confusion later in the book. The unabridged version was so interesting and well-written that I don’t see the need to abridge it.
WARNING: Magic, as described above.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12