When my parents were here to visit the new guy, my dad noticed that Harper kept asking to be read baby board books. “I think she’s reverting,” he said. In response my mom held up the book I was currently reading: The Secret Garden. Hey, at least I don’t try to sit in the baby’s car seat. Not when anyone’s looking, anyway.
So, I haven’t been feeling that brainy lately. Big deal. There is something extraordinarily soothing about revisiting childhood favorites, and over the course of my pregnancy I found myself happily plowing through Little House in the Big Woods, Matilda, Anne of Green Gables, and the like. I loved The Secret Garden as a child, so it was with a particular shiver of deliciousness that I started it again.
This book has it all – an orphan, a mysterious mansion, that tantalizing locked-up garden, and of course kids hanging out with minimal adult supervision, which unfortunately for our ultra-observed city kids seems to be the only way adventures can happen. Oh well. Maybe there’s a special Parentless Adventures Summer Workshop they can take if we do our research and sign them up for it early enough.
Also unfortunately for our city-kids, according to this book any physical or spiritual malady can be healed by Magic – and by Magic, Frances Hodgson Burnett seems to mean dirt and fresh air and friendly relationships with woodland creatures. I hope it counts to just glare at the ungainly raccoon who perpetually strands himself on our fire escape. (“He needs to go buy some food,” Harper explained to me the other night.)
You know what else I realized? Reading as a picky adult, who incidentally has spent some years writing some novels? That – spoiler alert! — the end of this book is deeply unsatisfying. Who remembered that it ended this way? Certainly not I. And as a writer, I am sympathetic to the fact that endings are hard. But still, okay, this has been Mary’s story all along. The book opens with her dramatic orphaning and trip to England, and follows her growth, with the help of that good moor air, from a sour-faced brat to a plump and active sweetheart. She develops this lovely, siblingy relationship with Colin, the creepy invalid who turns out to be neither. And then…Colin steals the show, and occupies the last few chapters pretty much all by himself. So weird! What happens to Mary? Was Burnett just leaving herself room for a sequel? The Secreter Garden?
Whatever. It was still a soothing and sweet book to read, and as ever I love Tasha Tudor’s evocative illustrations. Reading this made me want to revisit The Little Princess, too, which I think I loved even more, but maybe I can make myself wait until I can read it to Harper. And Alton, of course. I’m sure he’ll be suuuuuper into that.