The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)The Secret Garden. Finished audio 5-12-15, rating 2.5/5, children’s fiction, pub. 1911

What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty–unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.

from Goodreads

Unabridged audio read by Finola Hughes. 8.5 hours.


This beloved children’s classic, that details the healing of the spoiled, irritating Mary Lennox and her similarly unlikable cousin Colin, can certainly be appreciated as a coming of age story. Mary had bad parents who died and she was shipped off to an equally distant uncle in the lonely moors of England. Spending time with the saintly Dickon and the robin who communicates with them (my two favorite characters of the book) helped to turn these two brats (Mary and Colin) into good kids.

The idea of nature being a healer was a good one and I liked the transformation of the children and even the adults.  Spending days working in a secret garden is certainly something that holds a magical appeal to lots of people.  And Burnett’s writing did make me feel like I was on the moor and the isolated nature of it really brought home the lavishness of the garden they were creating.

Let me say a word about the narration because I do think it’s possible it contributed to this book leaving me cold.  Mary and Colin’s voices were so whiny and irritating all the way through that even as they grew into better kids they were still grating on my nerves.  This might not have happened if I had read the book.

Mary did manage to grow on me a bit and the end was as expected for a children’s book, but I was bored most of the time.  It moved too slow and add that to the annoying narration and it just didn’t work for me.  I read the reviews of the people who loved it (almost everyone!) and in theory I should have loved it too. Oh well, maybe my next classic for The Classics Club will be a better fit.

So what was your favorite part of the book?  Did you like the audio if you listened to it?

9 thoughts on “The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  1. chuffwrites says:

    I’ve never been a huge Secret Garden fan for exactly the same reason — it always felt so slow and boring. I could barely sit through the movie, I’m impressed you slogged through hours and hours of an audio book!

  2. Literary Feline says:

    It’s been ages since I read this book. I think I was more enamored with the movie growing up than the book, in all honesty. I wonder what I would think of it now, as a grown up. Maybe I would feel the same as you.

  3. Teddyree says:

    I really liked this when I read it as a kid. I wouldn’t listen to the audio … whiny voices annoy the heck out of me and I wouldn’t want to spoil a good book lol

  4. Leslie says:

    I read this (in print) for the first time a few years ago and I’m one of those who loved it. I just get into the whole nature thing. And the robin was so cool.

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