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Old 10-16-2018, 11:25 AM   #1
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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

"One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children's literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911.

The plot 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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We're trying something new - discussion sections - as an encouragement to keep those reading on a more similar timeline to hopefully foster more discussion. These are only softly recommended however and not required at all. Anyone can discuss any part or aspect of the selection at any time. We lightly ask that if you want to discuss something pertaining to a later section earlier that you put it in spoiler quotes, but if you happen to not then that's fine too.

Recommended discussion timeframe:

~090 pages, In 00 days, around Tuesday the 16th of October, the first quarter

~179 pages, In 07 days, around Tuesday the 23rd of October, half

~269 pages, In 14 days, around Tuesday the 30th of October, three quarters

~358 pages, In 21 days, around Tuesday the 6th of November, the entire selection


This is the MR Literary Club selection for October 2018. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!

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Old 10-21-2018, 06:46 PM   #2
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Here is something "fun" in the spirit of this month's category. As a child I was completely enchanted by Tasha Tudor's illustrations. The Secret Garden illustrated by Tasha Tudor was published in 1962. I have a hardback of this version, and it is still a pleasure to browse the pages and look at the beautiful pictures.
https://www.tashatudorandfamily.com/...udor/the-woman

Quote:
“What really got me thinking about illustrating children's books was I discovered Hugh Thompson's illustrations for The Vicar of Wakefield in my mother's library and I looked at it and said, 'That's what I'm going to do.”
― Tasha Tudor, The Private World of Tasha Tudor
Tasha Tudor won the Regina Medal in 1971.
https://cathla.org/Main/Awards/Regina_Medal.aspx
Quote:
The Regina Medal award, established in 1959 and sponsored by the Catholic Library Association, is administered by the Children’s Library Services Section through the Regina Medal Committee at the will of the Catholic Library Association Executive Board. The only criterion for the award is that of excellence. The Regina Medal is awarded annually to a living exemplar of the words of the English poet, Walter de la Mare “only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young,” for continued, distinguished contribution to children’s literature without regard to the nature of the contribution.
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:51 PM   #3
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Thanks for the links.

Harper Collins did a 100th anniversary illustrated ebook edition back in 2011 (ISBN: 978-0-06-206295-6) with Tasha Tudor's illustrations and it turns out that is the version I have, so the links are a useful reference for me .
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Old 10-21-2018, 09:06 PM   #4
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Tasha Tudor also illustrated A Little Princess, another Frances Hodgson Burnett book that I loved.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
Sara Crewe seemed just like a real princess... When Sara Crewe arrives at Miss Minchin's London boarding school, she seems just like a real little princess. She wears beautiful clothes, has gracious manners, and tells the most wonderful stories. Then one day, Sara suddenly becomes penniless. Now she must wear rags, sleep in the school's dreary attic, and work for her living. Sara is all alone, but keeps telling herself that she can still be a princess inside, if only she tries hard enough.
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Old 10-23-2018, 03:40 PM   #5
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I am listening to Tantor Media’s audiobook version read by Josephine Bailey. I recommend it. She has good tempo and does the children voices well.
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Old 10-25-2018, 11:24 AM   #6
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This is such a delightful book. I love the way Mary’s contrary character is developed (and explained) in the early part of the novel. Then we have the lovely entrance of the Robin which begins Mary’s transformation.

I’m listening to the Librivox dramatic reading. I find it very enjoyable. Ben’s accent can be a bit difficult to understand occasionally but one can read the text at the same time. Martha’s character is vividly created.
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Old 10-25-2018, 07:03 PM   #7
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I just started this book last night, just getting through the first three chapters.

One of the things that has struck me so far, and which I like, is that the narration comes across to me as apposite and not embellished. So I thought it an appropriate style for reading aloud - but I had not thought of audiobooks until I read fantasyfan's post and reread Bookworm_Girl's one in that light. It is not often that I listen to audio books but have downloaded the LibraVox dramatic version too, to have a go at.

The only difficulty I have with the story, so far, is that for the life of me I cannot keep in my mind the correct name for the young Lennox girl character. "Annie" always pops into my head and can't be got rid of, rather like a song that keeps repeating itself .

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Old 10-25-2018, 11:19 PM   #8
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One of the interesting things about this book is how it starts out so bleak (so much death!) and with a protagonist who is so unlikable. Yet, it is such a pleasure to witness the transformation, and you are cheering for the growth in the character development. So many negative words one could describe the initial Mary: self-absorbed, imperious, ugly, sickly, sour, glum, friendless, unloved, unwanted, contrary.

AnotherCat, I have a different problem. I can’t get the repetition of the nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow” out of my head. I kept stumbling over Martha’s name at the beginning because Mary & Martha are so similar.
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Old 10-27-2018, 10:52 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
Here is something "fun" in the spirit of this month's category. As a child I was completely enchanted by Tasha Tudor's illustrations. The Secret Garden illustrated by Tasha Tudor was published in 1962. I have a hardback of this version, and it is still a pleasure to browse the pages and look at the beautiful pictures.
https://www.tashatudorandfamily.com/...udor/the-woman



Tasha Tudor won the Regina Medal in 1971.
https://cathla.org/Main/Awards/Regina_Medal.aspx
Thanks for the links! That’s interesting that her inspiration was illustrations from another of our selections this year, The Vicar of Wakefield.

Also, though they’re quite different, when I started reading The Secret Garden this month I couldn’t help thinking of the other book concerning children that we read on the other side of this year, A High Wind in Jamaica.
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Old 11-01-2018, 12:04 AM   #10
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I'm a little over a quarter through now. I've rarely re-read books in my life thus far, even childhood ones again, and even when a child (besides perhaps those picture books as a very young child), so this is a new and interesting experience for me. The first thing that surprised me is that as I read now, I start to remember reading it as a child- a visual of myself reading, with other nearby childhood memories and feelings showing up as well.

I may have mentioned living in a big empty house somewhere before, I'm not sure, but this book did me in so well as a lad because I, like Mary, went from always having someone around to moving far away to a big empty house. I did have my immediate family still though, and the house was nothing in the least like the size of Misselthwaite Manor (I could only wish!), and I hope I can say I was nothing like the Mary at the beginning of the book, but still it was a big empty house off all by itself that I'd often roam around the inside and outside alone with nothing in particular to do. At the time I don't think I noticed those similarities, only I suppose that I felt a kinship with the book somehow.

All that aside, reading it now after reading so much literature in the interim, this seems a bit as if Emily Brontë chose the setting and Dickens chose the characters and storyline.
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Old 11-01-2018, 01:28 AM   #11
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It is different the perspectives you have as a child. I remember being drawn into stories about orphans and being enchanted with the idea of the garden being a secret and it coming alive and the friendship between the children. This time I noticed details like the adult reactions to the children and their chuckling at the children’s imperious behavior in a good-natured way. In other words I paid more attention to the adults and the children’s character development.

Also, as an adult I’ve traveled to Northern England many times and was in Yorkshire as recently as this spring. I can really visualize the description of the landscape and the moors and its contrast to India and the effect it had on Mary’s transformation, especially since I live in a warm desert climate now.
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Old 11-01-2018, 08:22 PM   #12
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I finished this a few days ago and as I said earlier I had not read it before but it was high up on my reading list. Apart from it being an interesting story I enjoyed it mostly, I think, because putting aside the extravagances of a children's book (the over-friendliness of the animals, etc.) the book was written by an author who keeps to the truth of the environment the story is set in and that backed by sound knowledge.

For example, how many authors would know that birds have nictitating membranes to lubricate their eyes? Hence the several mentions of Soot the crow's eyes going grey. Her comments regarding the various garden plants and their care always stack up.

Another example was with respect to the many mentions of the wind when setting scenes; how it felt, the smells carried by it, its sounds, etc. all of which matched reality in a very honest and knowledgeable way with no exaggerations. The references portrayed correctly how wind actually behaves and its effects on other things. I could not help but remember reading Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway where there are also many references to the wind, but where the references as to the behavior and effects of wind are commonly either dishonest for literary effect, or are imagined by an unknowledgeable Woolf (as she did with waves also).

Regarding the message of the story I read an eBook having the original great illustrations and some notes and activities at the end; in the notes on Burnett they state she is best remembered for her novel of renewal and redemption, The Secret Garden. I thought that she had delivered that message well, it unexaggerated within the extravagances of a children's story.

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Old 11-02-2018, 12:49 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by AnotherCat View Post
I finished this a few days ago and as I said earlier I had not read it before but it was high up on my reading list. Apart from it being an interesting story I enjoyed it mostly, I think, because putting aside the extravagances of a children's book (the over-friendliness of the animals, etc.) the book was written by an author who keeps to the truth of the environment the story is set in and that backed by sound knowledge.

For example, how many authors would know that birds have nictitating membranes to lubricate their eyes? Hence the several mentions of Soot the crow's eyes going grey. Her comments regarding the various garden plants and their care always stack up.

Another example was with respect to the many mentions of the wind when setting scenes; how it felt, the smells carried by it, its sounds, etc. all of which matched reality in a very honest and knowledgeable way with no exaggerations. The references portrayed correctly how wind actually behaves and its effects on other things. I could not help but remember reading Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway where there are also many references to the wind, but where the references as to the behavior and effects of wind are commonly either dishonest for literary effect, or are imagined by an unknowledgeable Woolf (as she did with waves also).

Regarding the message of the story I read an eBook having the original great illustrations and some notes and activities at the end; in the notes on Burnett they state she is best remembered for her novel of renewal and redemption, The Secret Garden. I thought that she had delivered that message well, it unexaggerated within the extravagances of a children's story.
There is a essay My Robin (not Robin) which talks about the robin that inspired the one in The Secret Garden.

Having read some of her adult books I would say the extravagances are less due to the intended audience then the author. The children's books that she is best known for are restrained in comparison to her book Robin. I read The Secret Garden as a child and adult and felt I gained from doing so. I read Robin as an adult and felt it was a enjoyable waste of a few hours.

(One reviewer at Good Reads stated that Robin is absolutely sickeningly sentimental and utter bathos, the reviewer also gave it four stars. I happen to completely agree with both the evaluation and the rating. )
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Old 11-02-2018, 03:59 AM   #14
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I've read this one several times both as a child and as a grown up -- it's one of my comfort reads.

I find this analysis by Sarah Rees Brennan really interesting: https://www.sarahreesbrennan.com/ext...happy-endings/ She is, among other things, comparing The Secret Garden with Jane Eyre, and discussing the different ways adult books and children's books treat monsters.

Quote:
Now Mrs Rochester and Colin both count as monsters. One has inherited (and drunk her way faster to) madness from her mother, and has in consequence of her madness become physically grotesque and murderous. Colin, while a much more milquetoast monster, thinks he’s inherited his father’s hunchback, and is legitimately a very sickly kid. Plus he’s deranged enough by physical weakness and a truly morbid imagination to have become a shrunken Gollum-like creature brooding over his dead mother’s portrait and peering around his dark little world with his dead mother’s eyes huge in his ashen face. And he’s got a house full of adults, including the doctor who is Colin’s social equal (and indeed his cousin), in his power. Because he’s psychologically tormented, his instinct is to torment, which for me is a pretty good working definition of a monster.

We get plenty of sympathy for the monsters in adult fiction. In Frankenstein and Interview with the Vampire put out a bucket because it’s raining Authorial Sympathy. But in the more static world of adult fiction, that doesn’t change anything. Sympathetic or not, the monster is doomed. Frankenstein’s creation goes into the ice. Bertha Rochester leaps into the fire. The monster often actually commits suicide or at least sows the seed for its eventual destruction by its very nature.

And Colin is on course. He’s practically willing himself to death, death is his secret and his one obsession. He’s killing himself like the other monsters.

It doesn’t happen. The monster is reformed. The monster is reclaimed, and the monstrous energies (largely Colin’s imagination) are not destroyed but used in positive rather than negative ways. (Claiming the monster also, and more literally, happens in Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.)

Horrible things often happen in children’s fiction. Parents have about the same life expectancy as a little piggy in a straw house. But children’s fiction is a genre with a lot of hope in it, a promise of resilience, and in the end, I hold with neither fire nor ice. I am a sucker for a happy ending.
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Old 11-02-2018, 09:47 PM   #15
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There is a essay My Robin (not Robin) which talks about the robin that inspired the one in The Secret Garden.

Having read some of her adult books I would say the extravagances are less due to the intended audience then the author. The children's books that she is best known for are restrained in comparison to her book Robin. I read The Secret Garden as a child and adult and felt I gained from doing so. I read Robin as an adult and felt it was a enjoyable waste of a few hours.

(One reviewer at Good Reads stated that Robin is absolutely sickeningly sentimental and utter bathos, the reviewer also gave it four stars. I happen to completely agree with both the evaluation and the rating. )
I have both My Robin and Robin in a Delphi Classics collection so will have a look at those. Thanks for the lead.
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