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REVIEW: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden follows our main character Mary Lennox who really is just a very spoilt child. When her mother and father die from an Cholera outbreak, she is sent back to England to live with her next of kin, her uncle. The spoilt child was raised by very neglecting parents who were self-serving and often did not look after her. She was raised pretty much by her nannies and was very demanding herself after not being taught such manners from her parents when they were living in India.

She has a real culture shock when she goes to live with her Uncle Archibald who she has never met. She travels to Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire, which is very unlike the warm climate that she is used to in India. She arrives there with a rude attitude but that soon changes over the course of the book when she is introduced the people of the manor including one Martha Sowerby. Martha tells Mary how it is and that she will not be treated like a child no more and must do things for herself. At first Mary does not like this but eventually grows to like Martha.

One day, Mary finds a secret garden and asks Martha’s little brother, Dickon to help her look after it. Whilst searching the house for something to do though, she hears cries and whelps. She wonders what is happening but is told to ignore them until she goes in search of them and finds a young boy of her age named Colin. Colin is very rude to her much like she had been to people when she first arrived at the manor and puts him in his place. It seems she is the only person that is allowed to do this to him as he actually likes the company of her. She finds out that they are cousins and tells him tales of the secret garden and he wishes to go but he has a spinal problem that causes him to not be able to walk so getting there will be hard. So they organise a plan and Mary is able to get his wheelchair and brings him inside the secret garden. Whilst there, he starts to feel better and actually gets up out of his wheelchair and starts to walk, though a bit unusual due to the fact that they are weak from disuse. They keep this a secret in order to surprise his father and tell him when he gets back home from abroad.

When Mrs. Sowerby writes a letter to Archibald, he returns home and sees that his wife’s garden is full of life and laughter and sees his son being healthy after winning a race against Mary. The children tell him of the story of how they found the garden and how Colin is better. They all laugh and enjoy their time together.

I read this book on audiobook because of the narrator being Carrie Hope Fletcher who I simply adore. I did want to read this book before as it was a classic but this gave me more incentive to do so. Though it is a loving book, it is found to be racist at times. Whilst living in India, Mary is being seen calling the natives racist names that would have been more predominate of the times, however I feel that this excuse is used too much these days saying that it is a ‘product of time’ but this does not excuse the language anymore. Though yes we would see it as wrong now, it should be seen as wrong then as well. We must look at literature like this with a fine toothcomb and realise though, yes it took place in a different time, and this was still not right even then.

This tale is full of wonder despite the racist slurs and can bring joy if you look beyond those words though critically at the same time. After all, this is a children’s classic and as such brings a world of mystery and escapism of a place full of magic and wonder that is the secret garden itself.

3 out of 5 stars.


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