I suppose there might be better ways to spend a Sunday than baking scones, reading and blogging about books and watching Star Trek, but I really can’t think of any right now. They’re cinnamon apple oatmeal scones, and the books are by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it’s classic Trek with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Does it get any better?
Both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are re-reads on my Classics Club book list. They were some of my favorite books as a child, and my sister and I watched the film adaptations over and over when we were younger. Since they also qualify for the Women’s Classic Literature event, I decided to make them my first classics reads for the new year.
I can’t tell you how much I wanted a secret garden. Actually, I never really outgrew that — I’m sure gardens surrounded by high stone walls covered with ivy are more alluring than ones just sitting out in the front yard where anyone can see them. That garden with its hidden door is probably why The Secret Garden was always my favorite of the two books. That and the fact that there were boy characters — books with just girls in them are nice, but books with boys and girls are better even when there isn’t a hint of romance.
One thing that surprised me on re-reading were the fairy-tale parallels. The Secret Garden is a sort of Beauty and the Beast story (perhaps another reason I liked it so much — that’s my favorite fairy tale). A girl travels to a huge, gloomy castle where there lives a man who the staff and surrounding countryside hardly ever sees and are rather frightened of, though they feel sorry for him at the same time.
He cares about nobody. He won’t see people. Most of the time he goes away, and when he’s at Misselthwait he shuts himself up in the West Wing and won’t let anyone but Pitcher see him.” — Mrs. Medlock describing Archibald Craven
The West Wing is probably just a coincidence — Disney’s Beauty and the Beast wasn’t released until 80 years after The Secret Garden — but the magic and roses aren’t. Every original version of Beauty and the Beast I’ve read is filled to the brim with roses, and the secret garden is a rose garden. And of course there’s always magic — magic that casts the curse, and magic that breaks the spell. In The Secret Garden the children spend a little time talking about the “bad Magic” that trapped Colin and his father, and a good deal more time talking to and about the “good Magic” that Mary introduced to heal the family and garden.
I enjoyed reading The Secret Garden just as much as I used to when I was a 10 or 12 year old. It’s so nice when your favorite books can grow up with you. It was a bit strange to realize that when last I read this book I was young enough I could have been playmates with Mary, Colin, and Dickon. Now if I was in the story I’d probably be the governess that Mary was dreading might show up. I’m rather okay with that, though — after all, Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books of all time.