Thursday, September 22, 2011

Books | The Secret Garden


I finished reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN a few days ago and wanted to share my thoughts with you. I mentioned a little while ago that I’ve read it before, but I honestly didn’t really like it. I was in my early teens, and though I loved to read, I preferred your typical classic romance. Jane Austen, anyone? I also loved historical fiction of the Juvenile variety. I went through a huge Civil War phase. Nerdy much? All that to say that my first round with THE SECRET GARDEN, with all it’s talk of magic, and romanticism, left me wanting a little more. It’s not a terribly riveting book like most stories we love today, such as The Harry Potter series, but there is a sweetness and a richness about it, which is compelling in it’s own right.

This time, THE SECRET GARDEN came alive as I read. Here are 3 things that made me love every page:

SUSAN SOWERBY. Throughout the book, this character is known affectionately as “Mother.” She is a beacon of wisdom, hope, love, resourcefulness, generosity and selflessness, and is the one character whom I couldn’t get enough of. She is the mother  of both Martha, one of the maids at Misselthwaite Manor, and DIckon, Mary’s friend who talks to animals and wanders the Moor daily, watching the world come alive and rescuing helpless creatures. Susan Sowerby’s physical presence in the story is minimal, but her impact is great. She is the common thread that binds all the characters together. 

She cares for her family of 12, has very little money, gets a small break when Martha comes home once each month, and her joy and sense of purpose and calling never waver. Her children remain hungry after every meal, but she cheerfully sends them out on the moor to get “fat off the air,” and they love her for it. She is clearly an example of wisdom and resourcefulness, and is quoted throughout the book by her children and Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper of Misselthwaite. 

Susan Sowerby became a great encourager even to me as I read THE SECRET GARDEN. I felt that I had a friend in her and an example of how a mother ought to be, and how it doesn’t take money, perfect circumstances, stylish clothes, or even good nutrition to be a blessing to others and to have the love and respect of your family and community.
PERSPECTIVE. Never have I read a book that so heavily emphasizes perspective. We see through Colin Craven, a rich and spoiled self-proclaimed invalid, Mary Lennox, a sour-faced and unloved orphan, and Archibald Craven, a lonely, reclusive widower filled with bitterness, the way thoughts can poison every part of our being. In contrast, Susan, Martha, and Dickon Sowerby, though poor, are rich in love, generosity and hope. No one person has close to perfect circumstances, but it is not their situation that matters, but how they look at it, and the thoughts that fill their minds.
TRANSFORMATION. Just as the Secret Garden comes alive with weeding, pruning, and care, so the characters begin to shed their grayness and are filled with wick, a word which means alive, the book tells us, in Yorkshire.
This is a hopeful story full of rich details, simple truths, and lasting virtue. I’m so glad I gave it another chance.
Have you read this book? I would love to know your thoughts. Does this sound like a novel you would enjoy?

P.S. If you want to read something pretty, this book comes in two delightful options! Sometimes it's ok to judge a book by it's cover. 1 / 2


  1. Doesn't it look a bit like the girl is chewing the bunny in this picture? Or have I just watched way too many zombie movies?

  2. hi mary! thank you for your comment about my birth story. i am excited for you to try going natural too! having experienced it both ways now there is no comparison - natural is the way to go.

  3. Love that book! Even when I was little, I read and re-read. Focus on the Family has an audio dramatized version of it that I wore's just a lovely story of children (very real children, not perfect at all) and their relationships with one another.

    PS Both of the movies I have seen of this are horrible, just as a warning.