Frances Hodgson Burnett, in her book ‘The Secret Garden’, paints a pretty picture of the ‘English moors’ complete with a hundred room Manor, Yorkshire country folk and their queer accents and the gardens and orchards that surround those lands. For someone who hasn’t been to such a place, it does set the imagination wild.
But, this book isn’t what I’d call a children’s novel, (not little kids, atleast). Nor does it have an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ charm to it, which I expected (it to have) what with it being a story of a little girl who discovers a whole new world when she chances upon the buried keys to a secret garden shown to her by a bird. Familiar much?
What it does do however, is take you through the transformation of a little sickly girl, who hated people and was miserable, into this bright spirited healthy kid as she tends to her secret garden and watches in wonder as the grass grows and the flowers bloom. The garden slowly comes to life, much to the thrill of this child, and so do the lives of two other inhabitants, of that Manor, who had given up hope altogether.
Hope, I think is what this book is about. Hope and a childlike way of dealing with problems. For even though it is a plain story, the writing makes you so involved, that you find yourself rejoicing when someone with no hope of tomorrow suddenly exclaims,
“I’ll live forever and ever!”
Is it a sweet read. Yes. Is it something that should be in the top 100 all time must read lists. Not really.
Then again, not all great books are for everyone.
I think the popularity of this book lies in the fact that it was written by a female author in times when women weren’t considered to be proficient enough to earn their bread.
That said, do read it. If you find yourself with this book on a lazy afternoon, turn the pages and stroll through the beautiful countryside, breathe in the fresh spring air and be amazed by the secret garden so delicately detailed that you can almost touch it.
Photos: Remya Nair