The book which changed my life was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was the book that changed my choice of books from shorter children’s books to longer, more involved stories.
My first reading was as a 10 year old child after I found it in a stack of old books belonging to my grandparents. It has been years since I turned the pages of my battered copy but I still remember the sense of adventure and trepidation I felt as Mary discovered the key for the long abandoned secret garden.
I’ve always relished how love, fresh air and kindness transformed a young spoiled child into a loving girl. Slowly through bringing the garden back to life and the friendships she cultivates in doing so, Mary undergoes a complete transformation to become a happy and loving person.
Looking back as an adult reader on the way disability and illness is portrayed in the book is disconcerting, given the difference in attitudes between now and the time of writing. Regardless, the discovery by Mary of her sickly and temperamental cousin mirrors her initial state of being. Like her, the garden helps heal Colin both physically and psychologically, allowing him to let go of his fear and walk for the first time.
Looking back on my many readings of The Secret Garden, the main messages to me then were that happiness begets happiness and kindness and love can help anyone- positive messages at any age.
In addition to the themes and lessons that my younger mind pulled from the book, The Secret Garden was the book that set me down the path of reading books for pleasure and enjoyment. From my initial discovery of The Secret Garden, I was started upon a journey which has given me countless hours of happiness.