Sep 3, 2009

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary Lennox is a sickly and unpleasant little girl who's always had her way. After her parents die from cholera in India, she is sent to live with her uncle in a Yorkshire manor. Mary hasn't ever really cared about anyone, so she’s not particularly troubled when she becomes an orphan, and she doesn't care that she never actually see her uncle, Archibald Craven. She’s mostly left to her own devices, and bit by bit she makes friends with the maid, Martha Sowerby, with her brother Dickon, with a robin, and with Ben Weatherstaff, a surly gardener.

In the estate there’s a secret garden – a garden surrounded by a wall which has been locked for ten years, ever since Mrs Craven died. Mary is, of course, quite determined to find her way into it. And as she slowly realizes, the secret garden is not the only secret that her new house is hiding.

Yes, this was my first time reading The Secret Garden. And on that note, this was yet another case of major spoilers on the back cover. Sigh. Why won’t publishers realize that no matter how old a book is, there will always be someone reading it for the first time? I'm not saying that spoilers should never be mentioned. Just...not on the back cover, please? On the bright side, this should finally teach me to quit reading back covers, period.

Anyway, I enjoyed The Secret Garden quite a bit more than I thought I would. And it's not that I was expecting not to like it. It was charming, and I knew it would be, but I was pleasantly surprised that the tone wasn’t nearly as saccharin as I feared. I loved the narrative voice; I loved that the story was told with compassion and humour. The narrator’s presence isn’t as obvious as in, say, E. Nesbit’s books, but there were little touches here and there – addressing the reader, giving the definition of a word, commenting on the story. As I’ve said before, this is a technique that can go either way for me, but in this case it really worked.

A while ago my friend Violet posted about how her sister put The Secret Garden aside because from the first page alone she could tell it would be difficult for her, as someone from India, not to feel offended and alienated while reading it. I’m sorry to say that it gets worse after the first page – ‘You thought I was a native! You dared! You don’t know anything about natives! They are not people – they’re servants who must salaam to you.’ — though in some ways this is easier to stomach than in other Victorian and Edwardian books because Mary is supposed to be an unpleasant child who says horrible things. Still, I realize that this is a bit of a cop-out, as the book is very much rooted in an ideology according to which “the colonies” were inferior places full of subhuman people.

But there are other, less unpleasant ways in which The Secret Garden is very Edwardian. It’s full of ideas about childhood, education and health that were exploding around that time, and I found that aspect of it very interesting. It also presents a dated concept of science, but I 'll let it off the hook for that in a way I wouldn’t a contemporary book.

I didn’t know this beforehand, but I wasn’t surprised to learn that Frances Hodgson Burnett was a practitioner of Christian Science, a doctrine according to which sickness is a frame of mind, and believing you’re healthy will make you so. Now, I’m all for having a positive outlook, but telling someone who’s seriously ill with something no amount of positive thinking could possibly heal that their problem is that they don’t believe they can be healthy is frankly insulting. So yes, this aspect of the book was off-putting. But then there was the other side of it, which is all about advocating lots of fresh air and exercise, and that I most definitely have no problem with.

This post is making it sound as if I didn’t engage with the story half as much as I did with the ideas behind it – that’s true to an extent, but I hope you won’t think this means I didn’t enjoy it. It was interesting for me to analyse these ideas, to think about how they reflect history and what they still mean today. Anyway, none of this means I wasn’t enjoying the narrative at the same time.

A spoiler-y paragraph: I have to say I didn’t enjoy the second half of the book as much as I did the first, though. This was because I didn’t find Colin half as interesting as Mary. I get that they’re both supposed to be unpleasant, but to me Mary was a lot more likeable and fun to read about. Colin just made me want to slap him half the time. And I wish there had been more of Dickon: him I most definitely did like.

Spoilers over. I’ve been daydreaming about having my own garden ever since I finished this book. Surely that says something, no?

Favourite passages:
Mary did not know what ‘wutherin’’ meant until she listened, and then she understood. It must mean that hollow shuddering sort of roar which rushed round and round the house, as if the giant no one could see were buffering it and beating at the walls and windows to try to break in. But one knew he could not get in, and somehow it made one feel very safe and warm inside a room with a red coal fire.

The sun shone down for nearly a week on the secret garden. The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books, and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories. Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years, which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite.
Other Opinions:
Becky’s Book Reviews
Book Nut
The Zen Leaf
Lost in a Good Story
books i done read
Booknotes by Lisa

(Please let me know if I missed yours!)


  1. I read this over and over as a kid and loved it, so obviously I had a different reaction that reading it as an adult. I focused less on Colin getting well than on the garden and the animals and Dickon. (I had a total crush on Dickon.)

    But I loved your discussion of Christian Science, especially as someone who has an illness! That hadn't really occured to me before, but I'm sure I'll notice it when I reread it.

    This is like the most rambly comment ever, and I don't even know if it's making any sense. So I shall stop. :p

  2. Oh, this was one of my favorite books as a child. Stuck in the concrete jungle, I prayed and prayed I'd find some long-lost relative who'd have a huge house and a marvelous garden like that.

    I agree with your view about the depiction of the British colonies. Later readings made me furious about Mary's views about Indians, though it is a common feature in literature of those times.

  3. This is my all-time favourite Children's Classic and it has been some time since I reread it. I worry that I will engage too much with the ideology and it will lose the innocence, enchantment, and charm, that it held for me as a child. Sometimes I reread childhood literature to re-engage with my innocent inner child, without looking too deeply at its dated ideas and offenses.

    I find that reading products of their time with politically correct hindsight is sometimes too heavy-handed and can censor my own innocent enjoyment.

  4. Of course you know that I only read this for the first time this year, too, but I'd seen the movie so I at least knew the plot points. What really surprised me about this book was the health stuff, the whole mind and body thing. I didn't realize that was a Christian Science belief. It's funny, because my mom's family is much like that - they believe they can will sickness away with positive thought (that's simplified) - but they would completely scoff at the idea of Christian science.

    I did actually find the narrator a little too sweet for my tastes, sadly, but the racist parts didn't bother me because I saw them as this stupid rich family who doesn't know anything but bullying. That doesn't make it right, but it was realistic.

  5. Eva: I LIKE rambly comments, you know :P And I totally understand having a crush on Dickon :D I think I paid so much attention to the Christian Science thing because recently I read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, and it plays a role in the story there too. But yeah, it's a tricky subject. In Colin's case, there was nothing wrong with him all along, but I can't even imagine how frustrating it must be for someone with an illness to be told, "Oh, you just have to believe you're healthy!"

    Hazra: hehe, a long-lost relative with a garden would certainly come in handy :D And yeah, it's a common feature of literature from this period. That doesn't necessarily make it easier to read, though!

    Claire: I really apologize if I sounded like I was trying to preach to you all or be politically correct. I promise that wasn't my intention. It's just that coming to the book for the first time today, these were the things I found myself thinking about. They didn't ruin my enjoyment of it, but it's of course a different kind of enjoyment than if I'd read it as a child. If I could go back and have both experiences, I really would. But reading it now, I was genuinely interested in those aspects of the story.

    Amanda: I understand about the narrator - in this case it worked for me, but it's definitely the kind of voice that can very easily go wrong.

  6. I loved this book when I read it. I think I must have been early 20s when it was a first read for me, but I enjoyed it way more than A Little Princess.

    I don't know, I have a fondness for books set in the (glory) days of the British Empire. I especially love British Raj books for what reason I don't know. I think it all started with watching The Jewel in the Crown on PBS when I was a kid. Then going on to reading the books and so on from there.

    Anyway, I never (ever) look at history with modern eyes, I just imagine it from the point of view of it's occurance. Any way I know I didn't notice any of the things you mention when I read it. Though, if I recall correctly, I think I found myself wanting to slap *both* Mary & Colin at times!

  7. Don't worry, I didn't take it as preaching. I understand your approach to it and I wonder whether my opinion will have changed when I reread it (I worry that I won't love it as much).

    I find it difficult to reconcile political correctness with older literature as I often think that it detracts from the pleasure of reading it. It even seems pointless in my mind and I don't agree with censorship of any kind. I won't be able to fully articulate my thoughts on the subject in a comment but perhaps I'll write a blog post about it one day.

  8. When I was a child, I loved this book. Reading it to my own children when they were young, I wasn't quite as 'enchanted'. I'm sure I missed the colonial ideals and health and education aspects as a child. I had no idea of the Christian Science connection. Another interesting review, thanks!

  9. read it. My sister did read a few more pages and she showed me the exact same passage you talked about. She doesn't even want to look at the book now, lol. I think I will donate it to the library :)

    Thanks for the info on Christian Science though, never heard of it before.

  10. I started reading this book a few years ago, but I didn't finish it. I can't remember why. Maybe I will finish it in the future! Thanks for your review!

  11. This is one of those children's classics I never read as a child. Or as an adult. But I've really wanted to. The too many books thing, you know. Anyway, to be perfectly honest, I think your review (which was perfectly wonderful as always!) has left me feeling a little less eager to read it. And that's not a bad thing, honest. I could definitely tell you enjoyed the book, and I know your intent was not to dissuade anyone from reading it. It's just that I think I have a better feel for the book now. I've no doubt I would have loved it as a kid, but I'm not sure it would enchant me as much today.

  12. I was interested to learn about Hodges being a follower of Christian Science and amazed at their thoughts on illness. Now I very much believe that we create our own reality, but you are right that is taking it a bit far. Why would anyone make themselves ill.

    I haven't ever read this book, though I do have it in my collection. I will definitely read it soon.

  13. Nicola: A Little Princess is on my list too, but yes, this one seems to be the general favourite. I can't help looking at older books with modern eyes - I've tried! But really, engaging with the ideas is part of the appeal of older literature to me, so I'm really not letting it spoil things for me. lol, I know what you mean about Mary - there were a few moments in which she was asking for a slap or two herself, but she didn't have Colin's Rajah attitude, you know? That's why I liked her more :P

    Claire: I hope you do write that post, as I'd love to read it. I definitely don't advocate censorship either, and I don't think children should ever be kept from reading these older classics - or, worse yet, that they should be "updated", an idea I find ludicrous. But for me personally, engaging with the ideas is not pointless, and I find it rewarding. Which isn't to say, of course, that I think this is the "best" or the "correct" way of reading them.

    JoAnn: I'd definitely have been more enchanted if I'd read it as a child, but there was still a lot that charmed me!

    Violet: I'm really sorry that your sister felt so bad :(

    Andreea: My interest did wane at one point, but in the end it was well worth sticking to. I hope you enjoy it if you finish it!

    Debi: Sort of like Peter Pan, right? I read that as a child and so I'll always be biased, but if I'd read it for the first time now I'd have reacted as you did, I think. Peter Pan takes it further than this does, though. And no, I definitely wasn't trying to dissuade anyone from reading it! You know, I didn't give nearly enough attention to the love of animals and nature aspect of it in my review, but I think you'd enjoy it for that alone.

    Vivienne: Yeah...I think that's something only people who haven't been seriously ill can afford to say. That's the case with the characters in this book, but sadly in real life things are more complicated.

  14. Sorry, I'm not trying to say that your approach is pointless either! I'm all for engaging with the ideas and do find it enriching to look at a book and examine how I feel towards its outdated ideas; what I find pointless is the attitude that it should be struck from the canon -or, as you said, ludicrously rewritten- because it doesn't fit modern attitudes. That's the worse sort of censorship: rewriting history and discounted beautiful writing because it also uses offensive terms and ideas that were, regrettably, acceptable then.

  15. i haven't read this either! so i just prove your point even further!

    i have a vague impression of what this is about (although i may be confusing it with something else...). the funny thing is, even though i agree with what you say about spoilers on the backs of books, nevertheless i'm now curious to learn a little more and want to go and look it up now!

    still, that's me doing it by choice. it's another matter when it's all splurged out there on the blurb! also, once i've decided to read a book then i prefer not to hear anything more about it, so i totally agree with you. there's nothing worse than buying a book and then having elements of it spoiled for you on the blurb! :(

  16. I haven't read this book in years and years. It would be interesting to reread it as an adult. I loved it as a child.

  17. Reading this story as a child, it was pure magic. I didn't really have the sense to question its underlying beliefs or ideals. But I have not read it in decades, and would like to again. The movie is phenomenal. The characters are larger than life, and you grow to adore them all!

  18. Oh, I love this book. I didn't read it until I was older (for me) -- around 10yo. I still loved it. I agree -- Dickon was pretty great, and Colin was a pain. I just adored the idea of this secret garden -- I've always wanted to make one of my own. Someday!

    "Now, I’m all for having a positive outlook, but telling someone who’s seriously ill with something no amount of positive thinking could possibly heal that their problem is that they don’t believe they can be healthy is frankly insulting."

    We've been encountering this a lot lately and it is SO FRUSTRATING. Gah.

  19. Hate, hate, hate, spoiler-y book jackets and movie trailers! Why do they keep ruining things like that?!!!

    Re the Christian Science and Edwardian angles, recently I read a YA book called The Locked Garden by Gloria Whelan which took place in 1900 and in which the author actually included a little section in the back talking about attitudes then toward mental illness - a sort of reader's guide to give the history and background, that I thought was a great addition!

  20. I read this so long ago that I don't remember too much about it and the prejudices probably went right over my head.

  21. I loved this book as a child. I never thought about it having racist overtones, especially since those lines you quotes reflected *Mary's* attitudes (and revealed a lot about her disagreeable nature). However, I'm sure the author's view of different cultures *was* limited, as was probably typical in her time in place.

    I also never realized she was a Christian Scientist. I just thought Colin was a child who imagined himself to be much sicker than he was. Hmmm ... interesting!

  22. Criminy! I am sorry about the multiple comments. I really don't know why that happened.

  23. I haven't read this. This was a favourite of my sister while we were kids but it never really appealed to me so I never did pick it up. I think your hesitations were the same as mine.

    As for spoilers from the publishers, I don't read blurbs before reading a book, and now I realize that really helps. YOu should stop, too!

  24. I know I am in the minority here, but I adore A Little Princess! This one--not so much. I think I found Mary to be too "unpleasant" in the beginning & Colin a sap. But I loved Dickon and the old gardener (full disclosure: I read Secret Garden as an adult, with the now CS's book group; that may have influenced my impressions). Your analysis of Burnett's Christian Scientist beliefs (who knew?) as an influence on her works
    explains a lot. There's also a lot of plain old Empire "stiff upper lip" stuff, which others have mentioned.
    Please try A Little Princess (the movie of that was spectacular also); I'd like to know what you think of it.

  25. I remember reading this one summer when I was bored and rooting through my grandparents' book collection. I'd seen the movie beforehand, so I knew what was going to happen; but I also wound up liking the book a lot more than I was expecting. Although of all the characters, Dickon was the ONLY one I liked. Colin and Mary are going to grow up and have very unpleasant children together. :P

    I don't remember the comments about India and Indian servants by Mary at all. But when I read it that would have sailed right over my head, since I probably didn't even know (or care) where India was at that age. :/ I think that just highlights was a brat Mary is, though.

  26. I loved this book as a child. It wasn't until I read it again as an adult that the beginning made me uncomfortable, but I always interpreted it as meaning to show how utterly spoiled and rude Mary was; it didn't occur to me that it was being racist.

    I also thought Colin was a spoiled brat too, but in a different way- coddled so much no one would give him a chance to be well. It's very interesting to know that the author's ideas were based on Christian Science; I thought it was just plain sense! that everyone was so afraid to expose the child to fresh air and exercise he didn't believe he could ever be well.

    And my favorite part was Dickon with his animals, and when Mary first cleared the ground for the flower bulbs to come up in spring.

  27. Another weird thing: if you've seen the movie, Mary seems like a Pollyanna. They totally vanilla'd her character so that she was pretty and sweet. So annoying!

  28. Wow..this would be very interesting to reread again now! I first read this when I was a little kid and was naive to things like racism...Wish I still was :( I totally missed all of that and don't even remember it in the book. I treasured this book when I was a kid...maybe it's best if I don't reread it again, lol.

    I know what you mean about spoilers...especially with classics, people think it's ok to just post a summary of the entire book on the back cover. THAT'S NOT OK!!! DON'T DO IT PUBLISHERS!!!!

  29. I recently reread The Secret Garden too, and I really loved it -- it contains all those elements of Edwardian novels I like, but I agree about your estimation of Colin. He's not nearly as fun as Mary, and I didn't like how Burgess suddenly swung the story to make him the protagonist.

  30. I just added this book to my collection, after my daughter read it and loved it. I had never read it as a child, but I know that it's one of the classic staples that most kids read. I really liked your review. Too bad that there were so many spoilers on the back cover, I just hate that!

  31. Haha I've been daydreaming about my own secret garden ever since I read this book in, I believe, fourth grade. I love this book to the point that I can't analyze it. I just read it and re-live the magic. Everytime I feel too lazy to go out and water the garden or do some weeding, I think of this book!


  32. I read this one years ago and also saw a BBC adaptation of it. I'm thinking these days that I would find things about it that would make me uncomfortable. In fact I know it because I've been reading Enid Blyton books written in the 1950s and bits of those are stopping me in my tracks so even older children's book would be sure to have different ideals to those we have today. Luckily, I'm able to divorce myself from these things a little but I am really glad that we know better about so many things these days, even though we still have a long way to go.

  33. I loved this when I was a kid - and I read and re-read The Little Princess as well. :)

  34. I havent read this one but I do have in on the shelf for my kids to read. That sucks that theres spoilers on the back cover.

    Nice passages and great review as always.

  35. Can I ask what the spoiler was? I don't remember a time when I hadn't read this book, so I'm having a hard time thinking of something spoilery for it. (Plus, I love spoilers.)

    Are we Little Princess fans truly in the minority? I thought everyone knew A Little Princess was better than The Secret Garden. Of course! Because it has Lottie in it! And a monkey!

    I do like it in The Secret Garden though when Colin is having a humongous tantrum and Mary goes in and screams at him "Hysterics - hysterics - hysterics!" That scene always makes me smile, though I have now mentioned with fondness this scene & Lottie, two very tantrumy Burnett characters. I do not like tantrums in real life!

    But read A Little Princess. It is charming and delightful. And better than Secret Garden. It is.

  36. I think I'm the last person to have read this book! And I'll have to skip the blurb next time I pick up this book! :P

  37. This was one of my childhood favorites - I remember reading it when I was home sick for a few days, and it was great company. I've reread it since then, and I'll always love it, but it was pure magic back then. I think it was my first experience with an unpleasant main character, and it was so surprising to me to see how she changed through the course of the novel. :-)

  38. I haven't read this book but I saw a few film adaptations (I generally struggle with reading books after having seen the movie especially as many times as I saw this one)

    In regards to the Christian Scientists, while I agree that it's not the right way to go about things, positive thinking actually has a tremendous impact on health. Miraculously in some cases.

    But something I really have little tolerance for is expecting all situations to be the same. As a person who of faith who actually believes in divine healing, I also know that it can't be granted or expected every time. I don't believe there's a correlation between "having enough faith" or "living a good enough life" and illness. To me such things are the mystery of the sovereignty of God which takes a different kind of faith to embrace. And I now think that probably everyone in this thread thinks I'm a crackpot because I believe in divine healing, lol.

  39. I really enjoyed this when I read it, glad you did too. You know, I didn't think too much about the racial stuff, because of the historical setting. When you single out a particular sentence though, it's much more shocking!

  40. I had a big crush on Dickon when I was younger and read this book. Like you, I also really wanted my own secret garden after I read it too. thanks for reviewing this, it's making me want to read the book again.

  41. Oh, I love The Secret Garden. The movie is one of my favorites from when I was little. It's so beautiful and sad, same as with The Little Princess.

    I think I might have to go have a double feature of the movies tonight. :)

  42. I remember loving the book and the film as a child, back when the morality of the tale and the writing perhaps would not have struck me in the same way. I can imagine being quite horrified at the colonialism (is that the right word?) today.

  43. I didn't know that the author was Christian Scientist. I'd actually like to go back and read it knowing that.

  44. Claire, nothing to apologize for!! I think these discussions are important to have, and I'm glad we had it. Re-writing books is indeed absurd - I can't see the use of pretending history never happened. And if that were a valid reason to remove a book from the canon, well, there wouldn't be much of a canon left! Part of what I love about literature is that it gives us a chance to have a dialogue with the past - we can speak back, but we can't try to silence the other side.

    JP: I'm the same - I like reading the back cover so I can decide whether or not a book appeals to me, but when I'm about to start reading I'd rather not know too much in advance.

    Jessica: It'll probably be a different experience, but I still found it very enjoyable as an adult.

    Sandy: I'll have to look for the movie now! I bet the nature scenes alone make it worth it :)

    Daphne: I'm so sorry you and Terri have to deal with that...gah indeed :(

    rhapsodyinbooks: I knooooow! I realize that some people don't mind spoilers, and that's fine, but have mercy on those of us who do! And that guide sounds extremely interesting!

    Bermudaonion: Yes, I'd definitely have missed them too when I was younger.

    Laughing Stars: The bit about Colin, at first I thought that too, but the things he said about growing up to be a scientist who would "prove" that illness and health were all a matter ot attitude was what made me relate it to the author's personal beliefs. It was definitely true in Colin's case, but sadly it doesn't go for everyone. And no worries about the comments! I apologize on Blogger's behalf - it has been very buggy.

    Claire: lol, I most definitely WILL stop. I've learned my lesson :P

    ds: Yes, the "stiff upper lip" attitude is definitely there. I promise to try A Little Princess!

    heidenkind: lol! I can only imagine what Colin and Mary's children would be like :P But hopefully she grew up to marry Dickon and not Colin.

    Jeane: I think there's more to it that her beliefs: the parts about fresh air and exercise and a healthy diet also reflect ideas about education that were on the rise, and go against the Victorian a-draught-will-surely-kill-you. It's that mix of ideas that makes it so interesting, though! And the scenes with Dickon and the animals were all wonderful :)

  45. heidenkind: That's too bad! It would be more fun to see her being contrary :P
    Chris: I don't think rereading it will ruin it for you or anything, but yeah, some things will be hard to ignore. And I know >:( I am SO not reading the back cover of my Wilkie Collins books, lol.

    Through the Reading Glass: That was exactly it. As annoying as Colin was, I wouldn't have minded him half as much if not for the shift in who was the main focus.

    Zibilee: I hate it too! I hope you enjoy the book!

    Sharry: I am still daydreaming about my own secret garden too, so yeah, it seems that the fantasy will stay with me :P

    Cath: It's hard not to be uncomfortable, isn't it? But I also try not to let it ruin the books for me.

    Maree: Must get my hands on A Little Princess!

    Naida, thanks :) The spoilers weren't HUGE or anything, but still :P

    Jenny: It was something along the lines of, "And the she starts hearing strange noises that sound like someone crying, which turn out to be her sickly cousin Colin who everyone had been hiding from her, but with the help of the garden he gets all better". Basically, a summary of the whole second half of the book, which I could have done without :P A monkey, eh? Well, now I'm curious :P And yes, the tantrum scene was wonderful!

    Melody: lol, you're not! But yes, skip the blurb :P

    Darla: Seeing Mary chance was wonderful! And reading this book in bed while home sick sounds so cosy :)

    Amy: Noooo! Nobody thinks you're crazy! I have nothing but respect for your faith - and Burnett's too. I should have explained myself better: what put me off was not the belief itself, but exactly that finger-pointing attitude: "If I get better because I have faith, those who don't get better just don't believe enough." There are hints of that in the book, but I most definitely know that not all people of faith will think that!

    Joanna: Even in the context of the book, that sentence was quite a shock :/

    Kim: Dickon is wonderful! I completely understand your crush.

    She: I'll have to keep an eye out for both movies!

    Marie: I think colonialism is the right word, yes. I'd definitely have missed it as a child too!

    J.T. Oldfield: It's very interesting to see the conflict between old and what were at the time new ideas about health, education, etc in the story.

  46. I'm so glad I was exposed to this book when I was too young to remember any of the nasty things Mary says about Indians. I loved the garden I loved Dickon. I wanted a robin to show me secrets.

    This one will always be near to my heart.

  47. I am probably the only adultwho has never read this book. After your review I MUST! Thanks so much!

  48. Hmm, I never thought of The Secret Garden as being racist - but I haven't read it in YEARS. And I loved it, so now I'm a little bit afraid of ever going back to visit it for fear of being put off due to those sentences... Hrm.

    But! Dickon is wonderful, and I adore him. And I am happy that you enjoyed it even though there were a few things about it that weren't very cool. :)

    Have you read her A Little Princess? (It may have some of the racist remarks as well, but I don't remember.) It's rather adorable.

  49. This is another classic which I haven't got to yet. There are so many of them I want to read!

    Oh and I love reading reviews on classics, I don't come across them often on blogs so thanks for your review :)

  50. I've never read this book, and haven't had any burning desire too either. But it is on my shelf of tbr books - weird right? One of my strange book compulsions is to read certain books only because I feel a need to because they are important to literature/books in general. I'm a geeky-book-masochist.

  51. I read this as a kid in Indonesian language and remember not liking both the girl and the boy much, but having said that I wasn't that critical at the time and quite enjoyed the book.

    ps: I stopped reading back cover since a while ago too. I found spoilers too often there. WHY?!

  52. It's so interesting to look back on these older backs that I read as a child and see how steeped in ideology some of them are. As a child, that isn't something I ever really noticed.

  53. I love this book and don't think it has any racist elements in it.

  54. This is a book my mother read to me when I was a little girl, sick at home from school. So I guess my memories are based on my mother reading it to me! Because I don't remember the racism and the annoying things you mention. I just remember it being a good experience.

    I wonder what I would think now, on a reread?

  55. I've always wanted my own secret garden, ever since reading this as a child! There was a movie adaptation that came out, oh maybe 10-15 years ago, and I also loved that movie... watched it all the time. I would probably have a different perspective if I reread this one, but I hope I would still like it!

  56. Its been awhile since I read this but I don't remember ever really analyzing it. Dickon was the best character overall though.

  57. I`ve seen two different movie versions and loved them. I never have read the book but I think I will one of these days.

  58. I have no idea how many times I've read this book. Several times as a child, and several times as an adult.

    Yes, it is racist, but in such a way that after reading it and A Little Princess, I became obsessed with India and I give Burnett credit for my lingering interest in the current effects of British imperialism and the current angst over what it means to be British (also helped by spending a year in a largely Pakistani neighborhood in Manchester).

    I also suggest you check out the musical, which is well done and one of my favorite musicals to this day.

  59. J I just happened to read the book now...I started with much excitement and the very few pages made me sleepless as I'm sitting in middle of the night typing it... the scenes about India and the Indian people made me so.. and most of them all what does a skipping rope had got to do with the colour? I wish to say here that though India has and had a hot tropical climate it should be under estimated.. it is for those richness many people came to steal our wealth and also the innocence of our people...though I liked the book as I read I wished to close it down when I come across the abuse the author had made about India. I strongly wish there should be a change and alterations in this book as many Indians are sure to read it... thanks for this space where I had a let out of this rascist book..


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.