Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Name of Book: The Secret Garden

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett

ISBN: 0-87406-575-5

Publisher: Worthington Press

Type of book: Children, garden, mysteries, India, magic, 1800s, Yorkshire, England, India, unwanted children, exercise, nature, playtime

Year it was published: 1911

Summary:

Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; "It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together.... 'No wonder it is still,' Mary whispered. 'I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'" As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin's sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden's portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived. (Ages 9 to 12)

Characters:

The characters are slightly rounded because they do change throughout the book. Mary, who is a detestable girl in beginning turns into a healthy and well rounded girl in the end. Colin also ends up the same way while Dickon and Martha and few others remain the way they are. The audience don't really see the inside of Mary but instead are told.

Theme:

Nature cures all ills and problems

Plot:

This is written in third person primarily from Mary, although I feel that the narrator gets to be detached from Mary in the latter half of the book and we get brief flashes from other characters as well. I think it would have been beneficial to continue to be stuck and see things from Mary's perspective rather than have a narrator tell the rest of the story so to speak. I think the Yorkshire speech will also be difficult for some kids to digest and a brief glossary or translations would have helped. There is also a fairytale air around the book as well.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, The United Kingdom November 24, 1849

died
October 29, 1924

gender
female

genre
Children's Books, Literature & Fiction

About this author

Frances Eliza Hodgson was the daughter of ironmonger Edwin Hodgson, who died three years after her birth, and his wife Eliza Boond. She was educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentleman until the age of fifteen, at which point the family ironmongery, then being run by her mother, failed, and the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. Here Hodgson began to write, in order to supplement the family income, assuming full responsibility for the family upon the death of her mother, in 1870. In 1872 she married Dr. Swan Burnett, with whom she had two sons, Lionel and Vivian. The marriage was dissolved in 1898, and Burnett was briefly remarried, to actor Stephen Townsend. That marriage too, ended in divorce. Following her great success as a novelist, playwright, and children's author, Burnett maintained homes in both England and America, traveling back and forth quite frequently. She died in her Long Island, New York home, in 1924.

Primarily remembered today for her trio of classic children's novels - Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911) - Burnett was also a popular adult novelist, in her own day, publishing romantic stories such as The Making of a Marchioness (1901) for older readers

Opinion:

As a child, I am being honest in saying that I didn't like this book at all. I think the Yorkshire speech really put me off of liking it. Reading this book now, however, I enjoyed it. This is a classic book for children, and tends to be very simplistic in messages. I also think in an odd way it tends to be racist towards India as well. The style its written in is a typical pro-British and for some adults it might be on the insulting side. Life is not that simple as presented in here. There is admiration of middle and lower classes and I also sensed a biblical message of sorts in there in terms of Colin and his animals and the magic so to speak.  Strangely enough, she is the only British author so far that I actually like to read.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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