This book is part of the BBC’s Big Read – Top 100 books.
One is never too old to read children’s books. I, for one, love children’s books and movies. I enjoy reading comics and watching cartoons. It had been so long since I read a kids’ book, that I greedily lapped up Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and enjoyed every word and letter.
Mary Lennox, who is living in India with her parents, is sent to England to live with her maternal uncle after her parents die because of cholera. As a child, she is unhealthy, stubborn and queer. Her uncle, Mr. Craven, is another queer man who keeps to himself and avoids meeting anyone. His house has as many as hundreds of rooms, of which many are kept closed and are unused. Mary hears a story of how Mrs. Craven died after she fell from a tree in her garden and how Mr. Craven hates the garden for it and hence has kept it locked. He has buried the key and no one has entered this garden for ten years. Mary is thrilled with this idea of a secret garden and wants to see what is in it.
While the plot is kiddish, the message the book conveys is not. The message that runs parallely along the story is that one needs to eat well and play well to be healthy. A main part of the story is about how a sick, unhealthy child learns to enjoy the life around. Nature has a strong presence in the book. Mary owes her health to her secret garden where as she plants the flowers, she grows along with the plants. Dickon, a country lad, is friends with all the wild animals and can even speak to a robin. If we all can learn to enjoy and respect the nature around us, we will have a healthier and a better life. The book is not patronizing. There are no messages passed on as wisdom. One just reads the story and realizes all these. After I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but smile and say to myself “Isn’t life beautiful?”
It is only right that the book talks about enjoying little things in life. Burnett, who was born in a poor family, knows what are the important things in life. Materialistic things like clothes, money, wealth and grandeur are things that Burnett feels are useless and hence get no mention in the book at all.
This is one of the rare books which cater to minds of children and adults alike. Didn’t someone say there is a child residing in everybody’s heart? It is very difficult to try and please a variety of audience, but Burnett manages it with such ease. One can treat this book as a kids’ book as well as a serious book which preaches ways of leading a happy life. No matter how you want to take it, it’s a book worth reading. I so badly want to give this book to my son and say, “Read this now”. I wish he was big enough.
A legal copy of this book is available online for free.