This week I find myself rereading an old-time classic out loud. I am being reacquainted with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’ as I read it aloud to my 9 year daughter while camping out for 10 days with her in the paediatric ward of the hospital. My French is being elevated to yet another level as we undertake a rapid apprenticeship in living with Type 1 diabetes, which after a rushed call to the hospital, we discovered was the cause of her giant fatigue and unquenchable thirst.
Both of us seeking an escape, we embark on our journey towards the secret garden with 9 year old Mary Lennox, who finds herself removed from an exotic life in India and living with a rarely seen and allegedly cantankerous Uncle, in a grand old manor on the moors of England after both her parents succumb to cholera.
We are a couple of chapters into the book and my daughter is feeling a little deceived. “There’s no secret garden” she says, “and what does it mean, gloomy”. I have to admit that for a story chosen to perk up an ailing child, the first few chapters are somewhat gloomy indeed.
At this point my daughter decides to take the matter into her own hands and here you can see her first attempt at creating a secret garden of her own. The joy and allure of a great book title, it inspires the imagination before we have even arrived at the promised treasure the book beholds.
Young Mary has been both pampered and neglected in her former colonial life so England is something of a shock, where staff speak to her as an equal and expect her to be somewhat independent. But this newfound freedom will lead her to discover the enchanted garden and to make new friends, not just of the human variety.
Needless to say, this wonderful book is about transformation in many guises, the human spirit, the magic and healing power of gardens, the wonder of birds and animals and the joy that acts of kindness engender. It worked wonders for us both.