My first classic for the summer was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I can’t believe I’ve never read this book. The movie version was a childhood favorite for me and my sister! I even remember stumbling on our own “secret garden” out in the woods behind our house growing up. Needless to say, this story had an impact on me then, and it still holds magic for me today.
The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary Lennox, an Indian girl who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in Yorkshire, England after a cholera epidemic wipes out everyone she knows in India. Ten-year-old Mary finds herself at Misselthwaite Manor with more than a hundred rooms, a servant Martha, groundskeeper Ben Weatherstaff, and Mrs. Medlock. Those are just a few of the cast of characters Mary encounters, some of the most important ones not being humans at all – like a robin, fox, and two squirrels.
Mary has a curious nature, and the moorland and forest around her help bring her to life. She spends days exploring outside and gaining strength. When it rains, she does the same thing indoors, wandering the manor even though she’s been told not to go too far. Mary rarely encounters her uncle, but she does find another blood-relative along the corridors. As they strike up a friendship, a whole new wave of energy and invigoration wash over Mary.
There is one forbidden place outside, which Mary comes to call the Secret Garden. No one has stepped foot in it for 10 years, ever since Mrs. Craven died. Mr. Craven locked the door and buried the key, but – as Mary’s curious nature grows – she is determined to find it.
Over the course of the book, Mary blooms along with the rest of the world. If you have the chance (or patience) to wait to read this until spring or summer, DO IT. It was such a treat to be able to enjoy the outdoors while Mary is doing the same thing in the book. I found myself taking more notice of the fresh flowers bursting around me, and I think the appreciation is in large part because of this book! I don’t always read books seasonally, but after enjoying getting to do that with Winter Garden so much, I like when it works out that way. This book is definitely fit for spring if you can manage it!
The book is simple enough to be enjoyable as a summer read but has more heft and thoughtfulness to it than traditional “beach” reads. I highly recommend this classic novel if you are in need of some fresh air and a reminder that sometimes the things we take for granted in life are the most precious of all.
Stats: 288 pages
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Recommended for: People of all ages. I loved the story as a kid and found new appreciation for it as an adult. If you need a breath of fresh air, this book will be as close as you can get without getting literal. Although, reading it outside in the fresh air is even better!
Up next: Song of the Shank by Jeffrey Renard Allen