The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

As a child who loved to play outside and help my parents in the garden, The Secret Garden thoroughly captured my imagination and was one of my childhood favourites, I recently found myself reaching for my old, crinkled and faded copy again when I was in the mood for some comfort-reading.

The Secret Garden follows nine-year-old Mary Lennox who is orphaned during an outbreak of cholera in India and sent to live with her uncle in Yorkshire. Mary is left to amuse herself exploring Misselthwaite Manor and the grounds where she finds a walled garden that has been locked and forgotten about for ten years.

I’ve always loved that Mary starts the story as a disagreeable, impudent and stubborn child, so different from other heroines in children’s stories, which makes her transformation into a lively, determined and cheerful child all the more remarkable, and mirrors the rejuvenation of the secret garden itself.

Along the way Mary befriends the kind but plain-spoken Martha, the grumpy yet sentimental gardener Ben Weatherstaff, animal-charming Dickon, and her cousin Colin who undergoes his own journey of healing and growth alongside Mary’s.

The Secret Garden is a lovely story of friendship, life and nature that captures the joy of nurturing a garden, and the curiosity and sense of wonder that comes so naturally to children. In the era of TV, social media and smartphones, the underlying message championing the value of nature and spending time outside for health and well-being seems as relevant now as it did when it was published in 1911. Have a lovely week. X