Novel: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Target Audience: 9 and up
Publication Year: 1911
Setting: Yorkshire, England–specifically, at Misselthwaite Manor on the moor; around the turn of the century
A Favorite Quote: “At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done–then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”
My One Sentence Summary: After Mary Lennox’s parents die of a cholera epidemic in India, she is sent to live with her reclusive uncle where she soon uncovers secrets that upset the household and transform the lives of everyone at Misselthwaite.
What I loved about this book: I love the Gothic elements in this book–the young girl sent to the isolated and mysterious house full of secrets. I love watching Mary’s character grow as she changes from a sulky, spoiled, self-centered child to a happier, more thoughtful person. I love the interactions between Colin and Mary when they meet and, for the first time, each encounters another child who is just as selfish as himself/herself.
Major themes: Purifying/rejuvenating effect of nature on the mind, body, and soul; the need accept the past rather than hide from it
Who should read this book: Young readers who will grow up to love the Bronte sisters are perfect candidates for this book. It contains elements of romantic literature, and the story is composed of mysteries, secrets, and intrigue. In the end, the novel is sweetly optimistic, but there remains an undercurrent of darkness. The book is over one hundred years old, so it’s probably a better fit for slightly older/more advanced readers.