Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Secret Garden - Book Review

I usually choose the books I read aloud to my children based on what books Neal would enjoy. However, Neal was gone visiting his grandparents for a few weeks in early August and I decided to read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett aloud to the other kids. I had never read it before *gasp* and I've been wanting to. I hoped that Amberly would enjoy it.

We were all immediately captivated by the story of the rotten, unloved Mary growing up in India. After being orphaned by cholera, Mary is sent to live with a reclusive, crippled uncle-in-law in a sprawling manor in England.

In literature, there is not a much more cryptic setting than a large English mansion filled with hundreds of closed-up rooms and surrounded by locked and hidden gardens. Add the unsettling sound of wailing coming through the walls at night and it's a genuine mystery.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The words flowed easily from my tongue as if poetry and I delighted to read it aloud. I especially had fun attempting to imitate the broad Yorkshire dialect of several characters. Burnett's use of gentle sarcasm and irony reminded me of C.S. Lewis's style in the Narnia Chronicles. The descriptions of the garden were exquisite--capturing the coming of spring perfectly. It made me want to plant something pretty. I thought the message beautiful and inspiring.  I am a new fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett and if my husband was currently allowing me to buy new books, I would order The Little Princess (love the movie versions) right away.

My kids, while they listened attentively for the first half of The Secret Garden, seemed to lose interest once the first mystery was solved. Amberly appreciated the tale the most, as I expected, and once he returned home Neal eagerly joined us for our evening readings even though he had apparently read it in school last year and thought it was "a stupid, boring book". I'm afraid that my children's appreciation for great literature has been overshadowed by Pixar, Harry Potter and the like and will need to be cultivated more in this house. I, for one, look forward to it.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

I just started this book for the first time :) We read in the evening with the kiddos too but I make Mike do it....