6 Mar 2015

Consequential Classics: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I have this theory that there are two types of people in the world: The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. You're an avid Austenite or you believe the Bront√ęs are best.  Sure, you can like both - but there will always be one you like better. I read The Little Princess and I liked it - but I didn't see what the fuss was about FHB. After reading The Secret Garden, I get the fuss.

I mostly read The Secret Garden because of The Misselthwaite Archives (#MisselArch), a YouTube modernisation of the novel. Having never read The Secret Garden as a child, I had no idea what was going to happen in #MisselArch, and found I didn't really want to go in blind to the series (below is the first video, for your viewing pleasure). So off I went to hunt down a copy.

I found that I really enjoyed it! I know it's marketed as a children's/young adult book, but there's something about it that makes me think that it can be enjoyed by adults (that aren't me, lover of classic literature and young/new adult fiction). I've spoken about my love of controversial characters before - Emma Woodhouse and Lucy Snowe are the two that first spring to mind, although I even found something to love about Erica Yurken of Hating Alison Ashley fame - and Mary is... pretty unlikeable. Yes, I liked her a lot. People complain that she's selfish and spoilt, but her parents emotionally neglected her (they didn't want anything to do with her and left her in the care of the servants since birth), and behaves the way the world taught her to behave. If you tell a child that she is superior to everyone else in the room and teach her to behave as if she is, what do you think is going to happen?  Mr Craven and Mrs Medlock also seem to view Mary as a burden, it's a wonder the kid had any self esteem left. I know Colin comes from a similar situation to Mary, but he frustrated me immensely, far more than Mary ever did at the beginning of the book.

I was thoroughly charmed by the Sowerbys - Martha, Dickon, Susan. Without them, we wouldn't have Mary's journey. It's Dickon who helps Mary in the garden, Martha who encourages Mary to spend time outside, and Susan who works her magic to make Mary's life just that little bit better. They're really what made the book for me.

What I took away from The Secret Garden is that people can only love if they've been shown love, and it's wonderful watching Mary blossom from a lonely, neglected child into one surrounded by strong parental figures and friends.

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