Friday, July 07, 2006

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The last time I read the Secret Garden I was young.... very young. So young, my young self thought that the London mentioned in stories must be the same as the one where my aunt lived ( in Ontario ); not that far out of reach. The Secret Garden had such an impact on my burgeoning imagination, that traveling to visit London Ontario, every beautiful Victorian farmhouse dotting the villages and hamlets leading to the city ( Arva, Lucan, Birr ) were all potential candidates for where the story took place. Don't try to tell my eight year old self that the Yorkshire moors are a far cry from Huron County farm country. I wouldn't believe you.

I cannot believe I waited this long to revisit the magic of one of the very first novels I remember reading. Yet, funnily, everything came back so easily it seemed as if it were one of my oldest friends. I loved reading of Dickon: the magic boy who could enchant the wildlife around him, of Mary the contrary miss who barked at the servant Martha but was still given ( by the same ) a skipping rope, and of Archibald Craven, the slightly deformed, Rochesterish lord of the manner, who came and went at will, who probably dressed wholly in black and who neglected his hypochondriac ghost-son named Colin---- so afraid of developing a lump to match his father's, Colin stayed in bed all day. Until Mary rescued him.....and a garden. At the same time.

Of course the rebirth motif is completely lost to a whipper-snapper, but Burnett weaves so well the awakening of the soul and the revitilization of the spirit with the sudden rekindling of the magic garden: locked after the death of its beautiful, timeless mistress. In fact, by the end, the garden and the boy Dickon seem so seamlessly intertwined, one wonders if Dickon actually existed. Is he instead a human metaphor for the liveliness the garden instills in those who tend it?

The reunion scene between the once-lame Colin who runs to his father, breathless and refreshed is very endearing.

I am glad I stumbled upon this again. Loved gushing over it with my friends and making them revisit it as well. I think it is one of the books that influenced a lot of children when they were young.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah! Wonderful book! Lovely Dickon! And Mary is so deliciously spoiled at the beginning that it's hard not to love her!