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Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Secret Garden Book Review

The Secret Garden by FrancesHodgson Burnett is a children’s literature originally published in year 1911 setat the height of the cholera outbreak in India. It tells the story of an orphaned English girl named Mary Lennox that had return to England after her negligent parents died from Cholera in India. Initially, she was described as disagreeable looking (sic) appropriated by her gaunt features and sour look that matched her total unpleasantness. However, throughout her encounters with good-natured folks such as Martha and Dickson, she had learned civility and manners that softened her stature.

The Secret Garden Book

Central to the story is a Secret Garden in Misselthwaite Manor owned by her hunchbacked uncle, Archibald Craven. In the Secret Garden lies literal and figurative magic but also a memory of the tragedy that affected the inhabitants not more so than Mary’s cousin and uncle – Colin and his father.

The strength of its storytelling lies with its marketability to both children and adult readers. The protagonist, being an 11-year old child is the surrogate of young readers to the whimsiness of the story. Each chapter presents integral aspects of the protagonist's growth and maturity – a heavy emphasis was given to the idea that with age comes wisdom. The easiness and conciseness of the text are suited to early readers. However, at times, the lack of cultural regards and the deviation from formal English may baffle the juvenile audience. That said, it sends a powerful message of self-discovery and learning from one’s mistake.

The Secret Garden Book
Image: American Literature
What rings true for the adult readers, however, is that sacrifice, and toiling is a staple in adulthood. These were presented into a good light since it resonates with the Biblical emphasis on the importance of work as men were originally called to labor in the Garden of Eden. To toil does not necessarily mean to devote precious time on earth and expect nothing in return as a form of servitude, instead, it should be perceived as a moment of quiet contemplation and forming connection whether in nature or with peers akin to Mary and Dickson’s enthusiasm to work on the secret garden.

The richness of the story comes full circle when viewed in the context of hope. It was easy to dislike Mary being sickly and angsty at first, however her change from a simple act of kindness and later imparting this very kind to her cousin alight hope for all of humanity especially at trying times. The use of the word magic even appends the necessity of enlivening hope. Hope is boundless much like magic and is universal.


What I liked about the book is its active voice, strong character development, and subversion to common masculinist tropes such as the knight in shining armor trope. I liked how the supporting characters were treated with importance despite the lack of their appearance throughout.

I also admire the brevity of the text with its intention being clear from the beginning. Moreover, the book fascinated me with the use of red herring in divulging its mystery and the build-up that came gradually in introducing key players and forming relationships. Of course, the book was still plagued by the socio-cultural politics at that time with few racial slurs and literary stereotypes, but these are unmerited criticisms you might bat an eye to.


Written by Joshua Rodriguez, IFY Books

Greetings fellow book and pop-culture enthusiast! I am your average young adult that loves to read science fiction (SF), general fiction and occasionally, young adult novels and children’s literature. At my spare time you may find me watching Star Trek and Doctor Who or updating my library with the latest shows from streaming giants such as Netflix and Hulu. I devote most of my time in learning, critiquing, and researching. If you want to know more, go check out my reviews!

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