Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Secret Garden Read-along Garden Party!

I have always longed for a secret garden, having read "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett as a child.  But adult life got in the way, and the thought was put aside for years.

But my friend Sheila, at Bookjourney, came up with a great read-along for this wonderful book, and as I re-read this classic novel, I found I was once again fascinated by the idea of secret gardens!

isn't this cover gorgeous!!!
About The Book:

Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old girl, is born in India to wealthy British parents. She is unwanted by her mother and father, and taken care of primarily by servants, who pacify her as much as possible to keep her out of the way. Spoiled with a temper, she is unaffectionate, angry, rude and obstinate. Cholera breaks out in the manor and kills Mary's parents and many servants. She is discovered alone but alive after the house is abandoned. She is sent to Yorkshire, England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven.

At first, Mary is her usual self, sour, disliking the large house, the people within it, and most of all the vast stretch of moor, which seems scrubby and gray after the winter. She is told that she must stay confined to her two rooms and that nobody will bother much with her and she must amuse herself. Martha Sowerby, her good-natured maidservant, tells Mary a story of the late Mrs. Craven, and how she would spend hours in a private garden growing roses. Later, Mrs. Craven was killed by an untimely accident, and Mr. Craven had the garden locked and the key buried.

Mary is roused by this story and starts to soften her ill manner despite herself. Soon she begins to lose her disposition and gradually comes to enjoy the company of Martha, Ben Weatherstaff the gardener, and also that of a friendly robin redbreast to whom she attaches human qualities. Her appetite increases and she finds herself getting stronger as she plays by herself on the moor. Martha's mother buys Mary a skipping rope in order to encourage this, and she takes to it immediately. Mary's time is occupied by wondering about the secret garden and a strange crying that can sometimes be heard around the house which the servants ignore or deny.

While exploring the gardens, Mary comes across a badger hole and finds a key belonging to the untended garden. She chances to ask Martha for garden tools, which Martha has delivered by Dickon, her twelve-year-old brother. Mary and Dickon take a liking to each other, as Dickon has a soft way with animals and a good nature. Eager to absorb his gardening knowledge, Mary reluctantly lets him into the secret of the garden, which he agrees to keep.

That night, Mary hears the crying again. She follows the noise and, to her surprise, finds a small boy her age, living in a hidden bedroom. They discover they are cousins: he is the son of her uncle; his mother died when he was a baby, and he suffers from an unspecified problem with his spine. Mary visits every day that week, distracting him from his troubles with stories of the moor, of Dickon and his animals and of the garden. It is decided he needs fresh air and the secret garden, which Mary finally admits she has access to. Colin is put into his wheelchair and brought outside into the garden, the first time he's been outdoors in years.

While in the garden, the children are surprised to see Ben Weatherstaff looking over the wall on a ladder. Startled and angry to find the children there in his late mistress' (Colin's mother's) garden he admits he believed Colin to be a cripple. Colin stands up out of his chair to prove him wrong and finds that his legs are fine, though weak from disuse.

Colin spends every day in the garden, becoming stronger. The children conspire to keep Colin's health a secret so he can surprise his father, who is traveling and mourning over his late wife. As Colin's health improves, his father's mood does as well, and he has a dream of his wife calling him into the garden that makes him immediately pack his bags and head home. He walks the outer wall in memory but hears voices inside, finds the door unlocked and is shocked to see not only the garden in full bloom with children in it, but his son running. The servants watch as Mr. Craven walks back to the manor, and all are stunned that Colin runs beside him.

When I first read this book as a child, I didn't like it at all!  I didn't like the character of Mary (thought she was a bully) and I didn't like Colin either (maybe it had to do with him being in a wheelchair, which I was in at the time).

But as an adult, I went back to re-read this story and found so many charming nuances in the telling of these two children who were desperate for attention and love.  My final analysis - I loved it.

I love the garden aspect of the story - it just fascinates me and I long to recreate one of my own someday!  Until then, dreaming of it will have to suffice!

About The Author:

Frances Eliza Hodgson was the daughter of ironmonger Edwin Hodgson, who died three years after her birth, and his wife Eliza Boond. She was educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentleman until the age of fifteen, at which point the family ironmongery, then being run by her mother, failed, and the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. Here Hodgson began to write, in order to supplement the family income, assuming full responsibility for the family upon the death of her mother, in 1870.

In 1872 she married Dr. Swan Burnett, with whom she had two sons, Lionel and Vivian. The marriage was dissolved in 1898, and Burnett was briefly remarried, to actor Stephen Townsend. That marriage too, ended in divorce. Following her great success as a novelist, playwright, and children's author, Burnett maintained homes in both England and America, traveling back and forth quite frequently. She died in her Long Island, New York home, in 1924.

Primarily remembered today for her trio of classic children's novels - Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911) - Burnett was also a popular adult novelist, in her own day, publishing romantic stories such as The Making of a Marchioness (1901) for older readers.

My thanks to Sheila for sponsoring this fun read-along.  Check out the other blogs that are participaring - http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/welcome-to-the-secret-garden-party

I purchase this book for my personal library.

my tiny little secret garden!


Ryan said...

I loved thi illustrations you used, gorgeous. I think I would have liked this as a kid, but not really sure. It's one of those things I wish I had done, but I'm gald I've done it now.

Faith Hope Cherrytea said...

i like your illustrations for this book and glad you've reread it with Sheila's Read a long..
hoping you'll hop around and visit the rest of us partying in The Secret Garden Party!

My anxious life said...

Is that for real your little garden? I just bought a bunch of little items for a fairy garden I am going to make next week!!! So I am excited to see someone else with one!! Glad to have found you through the Garden Party!!


Angela's Anxious Life

Garage Storage said...

I really like this book. I used to read this back when I am younger. Thanks!

FABR Steph said...

What a beautiful post. I adore the cover with the embroidery work. I featured the set in a Shelf Candy post many months ago. Thank you for all of the great information on such a widely cherished book.