- Lexile Measure: 790 (What's this?)
- Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Signet; Reissue edition (July 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451528832
- ISBN-13: 978-0451528834
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5,632 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2003
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“It is only the exceptional author who can write a book about children with sufficient skill, charm, simplicity, and significance to make it acceptable to both young and old. Mrs. Burnett is one of the few thus gifted.”—The New York Times
About the Author
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) was born in Manchester, England, on November 24, 1849, and emigrated with her family in 1865 to Tennessee, where she lived near Knoxville until her marriage to Dr. S.M. Burnett in 1873. At eighteen, she began publishing her stories in magazines such as Godey’s Lady Book and Scribner’s. At 28, her novel That Lass O’Lowries, based on the colliery life she had known in England, became her first success. But the children’s story she published in 1886, Little Lord Fauntleroy, is what made her famous. Its hero’s long curls and velvet suit with lace collar became a popular fashion for little boys. Little Lord Fauntleroy was also successfully dramatized, just as a later novel, Sara Crewe, became the much better-known stage play, The Little Princess (1905). While laying out a garden at her new home in Long Island, Burnett conceived and wrote The Secret Garden (1911), her best and most enduring work.
Sandra M. Gilbert, an acclaimed literary critic and poet, is the coauthor of some of the most influential literary studies of our time, including The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination and No Man’s Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century. She has also published a memoir, Wrongful Death, as well as six collections of verse, including Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems 1969-1999, which won the American book Award in 2001. A professor of English at the University of California, Davis, Gilbert is a past president of the Modern Language Association.
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You can sample the book as a Kindle freebie or in some other downloadable form, since it's out of copyright and readily available. Then, and better yet, after you read it and discover its pleasures, look for a nice edition to give to each young reader you know. There are easy to read books that are shallow, and there are harder to read books with considerable depth, but this one manages to be accessible to a fairly young reader and yet still loaded with fine writing, style, character, mystery, romance, adventure and inspiration. An excellent choice.
And while you're at it, take a look at Burnett's "Little Lord Fauntleroy". He's gotten a bad rap, (probably as a result of those Fauntleroy suits and haircuts that were the rage in the twenties), but he's actually smart , level headed, and shrewdly decent in unexpected ways. So go and get your Burnett on.
"The Secret Garden" follows Mary, a spoiled and unlikable young girl and the daughter of a British officer living in India. When her parents die of a terrible sickness, she's shuttled off to England to live with a reclusive uncle, and finds herself lost and alone in the gloomy manor. But as she sets out to explore her new home and make sense of this strange new land, she discovers the titular secret garden -- a garden that has been locked up since her aunt died in a tragic accident ten years ago. Enchanted by the garden, Mary sets out to tend it and bring it back to life, aided by a grouchy gardener, a soft-hearted animal-loving boy named Dickon... and Colin, a cousin who has been locked inside all his life and treated like an invalid. The garden turns out to be just the thing both Mary and Colin need to revitalize themselves... and it just may finally bring healing to a family long broken by tragedy...
"The Secret Garden" is an enchanting novel, told with an almost fairy-tale-like language that evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the English moors and gardens and their inhabitants. The writing style is lovely, and paints clear pictures in the mind. The heavy Yorkshire accents of certain characters can be tricky at times, but I managed anyhow. And while Dickon as a character feels a little too good to be true, almost straying into Mary-Sue territory, it's nice to see Mary and Colin develop as the book goes in, gaining confidence in themselves and shedding some of the selfishness and bad temper their sheltered lives have given them.
The biggest flaw, in my opinion, is that the book strays into a weird fantasy/magical-realism realm toward the end, which I feel wasn't foreshadowed very well. I love fantasy and don't mind magical realism, but it felt out of place here, especially with Colin going on about studying "magic" while at the same time declaring he wants to be a scientist. It just felt odd to me, and while it might be a product of its time (this book IS over a century old), it did taint my enjoyment somewhat.
Still, complaints aside, I can easily see why "The Secret Garden" enjoys a reputation as a children's classic. It's not the best children's novel I've ever read, but I enjoyed it, and am glad I gave it a chance. Perhaps I'll pick up the author's other classic, "A Little Princess," sometime in the near future...