The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a well-loved classic children’s story that I had never read until the past week. Although it was written over one hundred years ago, it still has much to say about human relationships and the healing powers of nature, friendship, fresh air, and exercise.
When Mary Lennox is orphaned in India by an epidemic of cholera, she is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in Yorkshire, England. Life at Misselthwaite Manor is much different from the life she led in India. The wind blows across the moors and the rain pours down. Martha Sowerby, the housemaid, encourages her to be more independent instead of catering to her every whim. Unfriendly, irritable Mary is still unhappy and isolated. With no companions her own age, she is sent out to play by herself. After befriending cranky Ben Weatherstaff, a gardener, she wanders in search of the garden that has been shut up for ten years. No one is allowed inside since her aunt died.
Mary is persistent, and not only discovers the buried key and the door to the garden (with the help of a curious robin), but she also wanders about the house in corridors where she is not allowed. Following the sound of a crying child, she discovers her cousin, Colin, who is an apparent invalid and in much the same state as she is herself.
The time she has already spent in the garden with the housemaid’s brother, Dickon, has taught Mary that she can be happy. She decides to try to convince her cousin to join them. Although a bit preachy at the end, this story had me in the garden with the children enjoying the flowers, sunshine, and fresh breeze off the moors, and trying to speak Yorkshire.