Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Secret Garden

For a while now I've wanted to write something about The Secret Garden. I read it for the first time a few weeks ago, and when I started it, I thought, "Oh this is magic!" But the more I read of it, what with what happens to Miss Mary Quite Contrary in dank, infected India and then how she blossoms once returned to the moors and sent outside; and then how the lovely and pan-like Dickon comes along and opens the secrets in the garden Mary's found; and then how Dickon's mother, and mother to 13 others, Susan Southeby, is full of motherly wit and wisdom, not to mention the kindheartedness to buy a poor little rich girl a jump rope; and how Colin is discovered and saved....well, it all got to be a little too much. I was going to suggest it was, possibly, the weirdest children's books ever, but then Marjorie Ingall blogged about what I'd forgotten was actually the weirdest children's book ever. Now I'll just say it's an extremely odd and discomfiting book for all it doesn't recognize about itself. It's all that unconscious reinforcement of the healing power of rosy cheeks and fresh milk that makes me nervous. I know that sounds kind of awful, because really, what could be wrong with rosy cheeks and fresh milk? But there are things deeply wrong with said cheeks and milk The Secret Garden because the author seems to think they're So Right. For odd and off, I suppose I'd rather read a book like Coraline which knows that it's being very odd and plays with the whole idea of the big English house, along with some other pretty wonky ideas about mothers and power and buttons for eyes. All this to say, I may never hand Helen or Elliot The Secret Garden and say, "You've got to read this!" Then again, maybe I'll do exactly that, because if I do, Helen, at least, won't ever read it, at least not for a good long while, and I think that may be AOK.

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