You know, people do reviews of all the new books that come out, but sometimes you just need to reach back and grab a classic. Because books become classics for a reason. In my Literary English Bachelor’s Degree experience (yeah, that was not really a useful degree to get. I should have realized that after the 3000th time someone asked me “Oh, so you’re going t o be a teacher?â€, that perhaps getting a degree in which the only job prospects most people sawÂ were a job that needed another degree with it was a bad idea… but I have digressed) books become classics because they so insularly capture an idea or concept that no other book need be written on the subject. Â The Secret Garden is one of these books.
Can I say that I fell in love with book before I actually read it?Â I watched it on TV as a young girl, as a Hallmark special. In my memory, it was well done (though I have not seen it since and back then I thought the A-Team was well done too so you can’t really trust my childhood perceptions) and I immediately looked for the book.
When I was 11 years old reading that book, the draw was the mystery and fantasy of The Secret Garden. At that time, I could not have cared less about all the silly flowers in the garden. I loved the fact that Mary, Dickon and Colin had the COOLEST secret clubhouse in the whole wide world.
Since then, I have read the book to each one of my boys and I am reading it to my youngest now, which is why it is on my mind. Â I think they too love the fact that the children in the book have this place to go that the grown-ups don’t know about, a place where children could make things happen without the meddling of adults (and we meddle alot these days, you know).
As an adult, I am struck by how well Frances Hodgson Burnett captures the heart of a budding gardener or even a long time gardener who has been locked away for the winter. While there are many passages in the book that convey this feeling, I love this one about when Mary first finds the garden:
“Yes, they are tiny growing things and they might be crocuses or snowdrops or daffodils,â€ she whispered.
She bent very close to them and sniffed the fresh scent of the damp earth. She liked it very much. “Perhaps there are some other ones coming up in other places,â€ she said. “I will go all over the garden and look.â€
She did not skip, but walked. She went slowly and kept her eyes on the ground. She looked in the old border beds and among the grass, and after she had gone round, trying to miss nothing, she found ever so many more sharp, pale green points, and she had become quite excited again.
“It isn’t a quite dead garden,â€ she cried out softly to herself. “Even if the roses are dead, there are other things alive.â€
She did not know anything about gardening, but the grass seemed so thick in some of the places where the green points were pushing their way through that she thought they did not seem to have room enough to grow. She searched about until she found a rather sharp piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds and grass until she made nice little clear places around them.
“Now they look as if they could breathe,â€ she said, after she had finished with the first ones. “I am going to do ever so many more. I’ll do all I can see. If I haven’t time today I can come tomorrow.â€
She went from place to place, and dug and weeded, and enjoyed herself so immensely that she was led on from bed to bed and into the grass under the trees. The exercise made her so warm that she first threw her coat off, and then her hat, and without knowing it she was smiling down on to the grass and the pale green points all the time.
Now tell me that is not exactly how you feel the first time you step outside into your garden after the wind, cold and snow of winter has receded.
Anyway, my point is that this winter, while you are huddled and miserable and gardenless in your house (or maybe that is just me), pick up a copy of The Secret Garden. Relive what it was like to be a child (without having to involve silly things like vampires and werewolves) and remember what it will be like to find your own “secretâ€ garden in the spring.