When I was around twelve, this was one of the few books that actually got me hooked and reading for hours at a time. I distinctly remember reading a digital version of this book in our lounge and rolling around on the floor as I read it, feeling as wholesome as a cinnamon roll.
So how did it compare ten years later from a matured perspective?
Bratty Mary returns to England, after being brought up in India, to live with her uncle after her parents’ death. Her maid, Martha, sets to get the attitude out of her by letting her explore the gardens outside the estate in which she lives. Mary soon becomes involved in an investigation when she hears that one of the gardens has been locked away for ten years. She wants to take a look inside.
This was one of the few classical literature books that had me hooked. I read this novel for hours at a time (granted I was a much slower reader as a kid). This novel was filled with so much whimsy and magic – even though it wasn’t a fantasy. This book captured a near identical essence to what magic is in real life. That being discovery, the wonders of nature and the beautiful defiance of expectations.
It still held up very strong today as I aged. At times middle grade or children’s books become very obviously childlike to the point of it being annoying, but I barely felt like that while reading The Secret Garden. It’s a book that feels both youthful and mature, as it is about children maturing in ways that adults could still resonate with. I found it particularly retable over the knowledge of how bratty I could be as a kid, much like the main character Mary, and seeing how she became kind and assertive. Not quite in similar ways that I did, but it was still great to see and relate to a character like Mary in spite of being twelve years her senior at the minimum.
The part where this novel really shines is in the mood and the aesthetic. Yes, it was a novel about restoring an abandoned garden, but that’s not what you remember it for. You remember the cottagecore! It’s a novel about wonder and finding purities in life, learning to appreciate what’s around you, to become nurturing. And nothing better symbolises that than the garden itself – something to be taken care of. Even in its abandoned state it was full of so much beauty, whimsy and was never treated as ugly. Nothing was. Hodgson Burnett really knows how to bring out beauty in everything. And of course I couldn’t forget the character arcs. While simple, they are the most effective I have read in a long time. This is because of an equally simple plot that became very character driven.
If you’re stuck on finding a classic lit book to get into, I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a purely perfect gateway that I can’t imagine anyone hating or getting angry at.
The Secret Garden gets a score of 5/5. Everybody loves cottagecore, this is the book that embodies those vibes.
Yours in writing