Finding a place to plant the seeds of a happy family life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 January, 2010, 12:00am

The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published by Penguin
ISBN 9780140621532

Mary Lennox is an unhappy orphan, as well as a spoilt child. And when she moves from India to her uncle's old country mansion in England, she finds life there very boring.

But one day Mary discovers a secret and neglected garden, whose magical qualities inspire her. As she tends its plants and brings them back to life, she creates her own little haven.

The garden also brings her into contact with two other unhappy children, Colin and Dickon. Here their lives are changed forever.

The Secret Garden was written in 1911, when India was still under British colonial rule. The story is full of servants and old fashioned English gentlemen living in a world that seems stuffy and outdated.

But Burnett deliberately wanted to establish this tone, so, in contrast, the garden would feel like a breath of fresh air that brings life back to Mary's family. The garden becomes a metaphor for their new beginning.

The Secret Garden tells us it is possible to find a sanctuary where you least expect.

In India, Mary's parents left her with their servants and she felt unloved. But in the garden she can see the fruits of her dedicated work.

And as the plants grow, they breathe life into her sad and lonely existence.

But it is not only Mary who is affected by the garden's magical qualities.

As Mary and her two friends unlock the gates to the garden and enter the unknown, we feel their thrill - the one we all have when keeping secrets.

The magic of the garden lies in the hope it offers them - the hope of being part of a family.