A dark mansion. Mysterious wailing through the corridors. A beautiful walled garden with no entrance. These are just a few of the mysteries that kept me reading this book over and over as a kid. It was also one of my first introductions to unlikeable characters. Mary Lennox is a surly child, with few redeeming qualities (and several other characters aren't much better). But the settings themselves emerge as characters: the manor, the moors, and especially the garden, which serves as respite, friend, and healer. My only disappointment with this book, on attempting a reread with my daughter, is Mary's hateful and racist language at the beginning. Though fitting for the story and character, like the Little House books it's something that requires further discussions with young readers.
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The Secret Garden centers round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in the gloomy Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is a rude, stubborn and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. Once when he’s away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle’s vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven’t heard, spiking Mary’s curiosity.
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