Spoiled, bratty Mary Lennox is orphaned at nine years old. She is sent from her home in India to live in England with her reclusive uncle, Mr. Craven. Mr. Craven is gone most of the year and half his mansion is shut up, but Mary explores until she finds the key to a garden that’s been locked for ten years, ever since Mrs. Craven died. Along with a new friend, Dickon, who is almost magical in the way he can charm wild animals on the moors, Mary works to bring the neglected garden back into bloom. Then, one night, she hears crying in the mansion and discovers a sickly boy about her own age – Colin, a cousin she never knew about. Together, the three children learn about the healing power of nature.
This was a cute little book. I’ve seen the movie many times, but this was the first time I’d ever read the book. I really liked Dickon. He seemed honest and real, as if Burnett based him on a brother or childhood friend she knew really well. I loved the way the characters developed over time, and how they wrapped themselves in the “magic” of nature. Their naivety was charming, though I admit it was also a little unbelievable for 10 and 12 year olds. Maybe that’s just my time period speaking.
I am not a nature person myself. I don’t like the outdoors, I hate gardening, and I really don’t like animals. I’ve always been that way. But I did like reading about everything these kids did in the garden, and about how they interacted with the tame animals that Dickon would bring to them – everything from crows to foxes.
I was a little surprised at what seemed to be the message of the book – that most of healing comes from willpower, from the decision to get better. Burnett seemed to say that if a person thought they were sick all the time, they would be, and that if they decided to get better, they would. Between willpower and nature, health was practically guaranteed. It’s funny, because my mom’s family – they’re from the country – think the same way, that nothing can’t be cured by running around outside from morning until night. Honestly, I don’t agree with that philosophy, but then again, I don’t like nature or being outside, so maybe I just don’t know. It seemed too simple, though, even for a children’s book.
My only real complaint about the book is that it was just so honey-sweet. I don’t mean to say I didn’t like the book, I did, but at times, I wished there were some darker elements to balance things out. The ending was too perfect, and it neglected some of the main characters. (The movie, on the other hand, added an end for the neglected characters which I thought worked well.) But on the whole, it was a likable book. Nothing I’ll probably ever pick up again, but I’m glad I read it.