Monday, May 17, 2010

Reflections: The Secret Garden

After all these years, I still keep discovering so many more truly timeless Children's Classics. Enid Blyton's books reigned supreme as children's books in India, that people like me somehow never got around to reading other classic books as kids. The Secret Garden is quite easily one of the most wonderful and charming books that I would heartily gift to little boys and girls. I would lovingly mandate all my little cousins, nieces and nephews to read this before they hit their teens. As a matter of fact, I would be that annoying lady who would insist on shoving books in front of children who haven't taken to reading yet. And if I come across an adult deeply wallowing in their furrowed discontentment, this is a book I would give to rekindle the child within them and bring a little smile and hope.

Mary is a scrawny little girl, who is completely abandoned and neglected by her parents; so much so, that sometimes people even forgot she existed. Not knowing what it means to be loved or cared, Mary grows up as an indifferent, obstinate girl. Following her parent's death, she is shipped off to live with her uncle - a supposedly grumpy and ill-tempered man with a hunchback. Her uncle's house is a sprawling mansion housing its own mysteries and secrets. Despite living by a beautiful Yorkshire moor, the mansion exudes an eerie air, with its locked rooms, unused corridors, mysterious cries... and a locked garden. Mary slowly gets used to her new environment and unravels a few mysteries. Her gripping loneliness makes her reach out to people, animals and even plants. The locked garden piques her innocent curiosity and she sets on a little adventure to battle her boredom. She finds the key to the mysterious garden and works hard on replenishing it, till it thrives with beautiful flowers. She hoards her little secret with two other young boys and together they discover how simple pleasures in life and positive thoughts can create Magic.

I expected this book to be about fantasy and magic, with elves, pixies and fairies leading the children on a little ride into their fantasy world, but what a pleasant surprise the book was! The book teaches kids that we all can create magic and miracles without the need for pixie dust and powerful wands. Burnett carefully guides children into the realities of our world, but without ripping apart their delicate and rich imaginations. The children find out that magic lies within them; "good magic" is about invoking good, positive thoughts of what we would like to see happen, and then trying our best to act on them. Magic is that fleeting power that combines the forces of Nature along with human will and unadulterated faith, to bring those things which we resign as being impossible, to fruition. Burnett beautifully expounds a weighty topic dealing with the power of the human mind, with simple and intelligent grace. She slowly builds a little mystery in the story, gently tugs thought-provoking questions and explains it all in an endearing tale of optimism and hope. The book also intersperses little morals on kindness and compassion. The story reaffirms that laughter is a wonderful medicine for the mind, and that the world can be viewed in a different light if we called out to the child inside of us. I marvel at how eloquently the book is written to appeal to children and adults alike.

I loved how refreshing the book was, with its beautiful and vivid descriptions of a garden blooming to life, and the promising revival of the children into healthy, happy kids. I couldn't have found a better time and season to read this book. With Spring marching its way into our gardens, the book would egg any reader to go out into the sunshine, revel in Nature's bounty and free their mind of clutter and negativity with every caressing breeze. The book is a bundle of happy, positive vibes sure to cast a spell on any reader.


SecondSight said...

You hadn't read the secret garden before ?!?! Its one of my especially favorite kiddie books, for obvious reasons.. :)

The one thing that put me off a little was the underlying racism and politically incorrect comments. Given the times it was written, it seems reasonable, but somehow- not in a children's book.

Neeraja said...

Yeah that did bother me a bit in the beginning, but by the time I had reached the end, I could hardly remember that part! I was already into ways of working my own magic :)