Friday, November 6, 2009

Time Machine Book Review: The Secret Garden

It's your time-traveling book reviewer Natasha back for another installment. This time I've traveled back to the past to almost 100 years ago to review The Secret Garden!

Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Reading Level: Ages 9+
Publisher: Puffin Classics
List Price: 4.99, paperback
Release Date: First published serially, Summer 1910

Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1910 novel follows Mary Lennox, a spoiled girl waited on by servants and ignored by her family, then suddenly orphaned after a cholera outbreak and sent off to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors. While roaming the halls of the large and mostly empty mansion, Mary discovers a secret garden, locked up for ten years as the result of a tragedy that nearly destroyed her uncle's family. Ultimately, Mary begins to grow healthier, and her bitterness towards others changes to a sweetness of appreciation. And as she works with her new friends to bring the garden from winter to spring, the garden's meaning to the family is ultimately transformed as well.

In the final pages of The Secret Garden, Burnett discusses the power of thoughts. Thoughts are "as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live." Throughout the novel, there is a thematic equivalent with health and vitality and maintaining positive thoughts. It's a truth of life simply stated: those that occupy pleasant thoughts give off pleasantness, and the inverse is of course true.

There is so much more in this novel that resonates still. The importance of allowing children to be children, of fresh air and play outside, of taking time to appreciate the beauty of our environment and of occupying one's time with meaningful and satisfying work are all lessons that our current culture seems to be relearning. One can awaken along with Mary and her Secret Garden by re-reading (or discovering for the first time) this beautiful, timeless classic.

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