Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publication Date: 1911
Purchase Price: $5.95 (paperback)
Gothic Reading Challenge
Much like The Last Unicorn, this book wasn’t on my original list for the Gothic Reading Challenge. Now that I’m looking for them, the elements of Gothic literature are everywhere. Here’s The Secret Garden.
After her parents’ deaths, Mary Lennox, a spoiled sickly girl of eleven, is sent to live with her Uncle Craven at Misselthwaite Manor. The gloomy English countryside is very different from her home in India, and the sour child wants nothing to do with the moor and its “wuthering” winds.
But with her uncle always away and no servants to coddle her, Mary is forced to go exploring the extensive gardens. And soon she begins to hear whispers of a secret garden, locked up behind a hidden door. Then she is awakened in the night by the sound of someone crying…
This is actually my second time reading Burnett’s classic tale. Several years ago I realized that the only version of The Secret Garden I had read was an abridged children’s edition — and although it got the basic plot points, the unabridged edition blew my mind. So here I am, reading it again.
I hadn’t known that Burnett spent the latter part of her life as a Christian Scientist, and this explains the themes present in The Secret Garden: if you believe yourself to be sick, you will be; if you believe you are healthy, you will be; being outside in nature and communing with God is the way to become your best self.
But those are all rather adult themes. Reading the abridged version and seeing the 1993 film adaptation, I remember the sadness and loneliness of Mary and Colin, and how the garden brought them together, brought them to life, and brought Colin’s grieving father (Uncle Craven) back to Misselthwaite just in time to see his son healthy and walking. It was all very magical.
And it still is.
The Gothic element
A tragic death: check. Creepy house with a hundred locked doors: check. Mysterious crying sounds: check. A secret garden with no door: check. Prescient mystical dreams: check. Sounds like a Gothic novel to me!
” ‘Perhaps it has been buried for ten years,’ she said in a whisper. ‘Perhaps it is the key to the garden!’ ” (p. 56)
“Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off and they are nearly always doing it.” (p. 62)
What do you think about abridged/children’s versions of books? Ever read one and then read the “real” one later? Wouldn’t you love to have a secret garden?