Day 270: The Secret Garden

Cover for The Secret GardenBest Book of the Week!
The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a young girl. I recently had occasion to reread it and was surprised to find it just as entertaining as I remembered. I also noticed for the first time how beautifully written it is.

We might be inclined to sympathize with ten-year-old Mary Lennox at the beginning of the novel. After all, she has survived a cholera outbreak in India that killed her parents, and she was left alone when the remaining servants abandoned the house. But Mary is spoiled and bad-tempered. She goes to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in Yorkshire, and she doesn’t like anything she sees. The food is horribly bland. The house is located on a desolate stretch of moor, and her uncle isn’t even there, so she is to be kept by servants. Well, she knows how to handle servants.

To her surprise, the English servants are not afraid of her temper; they expect her to do as she’s told. Largely left to her own devices, she explores the huge, rambling house and the gardens around it. Her young maid Martha tells her the story of a secret garden that used to belong to Uncle Archibald’s wife. His wife died, and he had the garden locked and the key buried.

Running around outside, Mary starts to improve her health and temper. She makes friends with a robin, and Martha’s mother sends her a jump rope. Soon she is rosy-cheeked and stops turning her nose up at the food.

Mary makes the acquaintance of the taciturn gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, and eventually finds the door and the key to the secret garden. The plants are dead, because it is early spring, but she wonders if the garden can’t be revived with a little help. She gives Martha some of her allowance to buy gardening tools, and Martha’s young brother Dickon delivers them. Dickon is a fascinating boy who roams the moors and makes friends with the animals, and with Mary. Soon, both Mary and Dickon are working every day in the secret garden.

Her nights have occasionally been disturbed by someone crying. One night she follows the noise and finds that a boy is living in the house, her cousin Colin. He is an invalid who has not been out of his bed for years, and he is even more spoiled than Mary. After putting him in his place, Mary begins to feel sorry for him. She reads him stories and tells him about the secret garden as if it were story, but he soon figures out that it is true. Eventually, she and Dickon take him out into the garden in a wheelchair.

This book is a tale about how living things can heal bodies and minds. As Mary’s health improves and she works in the garden, her temper improves. The magic of the garden brings Mary together with her friends and eventually reunites the Craven family.

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