Gardens in Literature: Secret, Forgotten, and Red

September 5, 2012 Classics, Historical Fiction, Mystery 12

Good day, Bookworms! As you probably recall from an earlier post, I enjoy flowers and gardening nearly as much as I enjoy reading. Today we’re going to discuss a trio of books concerning gardens. Are you excited yet? I’ll take that collective groan as an enthusiastic “Yes!”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic that’s been enjoyed by children for generations. Sadly, I was not one of those children. I wasted an awful lot of quality childhood reading time on RL Stein and Christopher Pike. So, at the age of 29, I finally got around to The Secret Garden. Better late than never right? At the beginning, I felt really badly for Mary being orphaned in India, but her parents sounded like douchebags so it doesn’t seem like too big a loss. She literally barely knew them anyway. Plus, when she came to England she got to hang out with Dickon, the wild mystical younger brother of the house’s maid. Later she discovers the young master of the house, a mewling wretch named Colin who has been tucked away in back rooms and not told of her presence.

Luckily, the three little misfits discover a garden hidden on the property that once belonged to Colin’s mother. The children gradually nurse the garden back to health, and in the bargain, sickly “I’m going to die any minute” Colin manages to get over his hypochondria and walk. There’s never anything wrong with Dickon (except that he seems to have a little Dr. Doolittle vibe about him, but that’s eccentric, not annoying), but Mary and Colin are a hot mess of brattitude when they start out. It’s a romantic notion that obnoxious children can spend a few hours in a garden and  get their problems ironed out. Realistically, Mary and Colin probably would have needed intensive therapy to get over the neglect and drama that made up their early childhoods, but doctor’s offices aren’t as pretty as GARDENS, now are they?!

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is our second foliage filled selection. A young Australian girl named Cassandra spent most of her childhood living with her grandmother (thanks to an unstable mother). Upon her beloved grandmother’s death, Cassandra inherits a cottage in England, but is given no explanation. Cassandra has never been to England, and to her knowledge, neither had her grandmother. As far as Cassandra knew, her grandmother was a native born Aussie. Cassandra sets out on a journey uncovering the secrets of the cottage and learns the truth about her grandmother’s mysterious beginnings as a foundling on a ship’s dock. Unfortunately, Cassandra’s grandmother Nell never fully uncovered the truth about her past and her biological family, but Cassandra has better luck. What we end up with is a story within a story within a story. Frances Hodgson Burnett even makes a cameo! This appeals to historical fiction buffs AND mystery mavens.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman is the final selection in our trio. Alice Hoffman writes with a sort of magical realism, so there’s always a mysticism and other worldliness about her novels. The Red Garden tells the story of a small American town from European settlement to present day. We follow the lives of a myriad of characters who pass through the town, and it centers particularly on one patch of land where the earth is quite red. Hence the name of the novel. The magical elements makes this book a hoot. (Yeah, I just said “hoot” like my grandma.) We see a woman making friends with a bear (and not being eaten!) Johnny Appleseed makes an appaerance as a barefooted hippie-like character who leaves more than one kind of seed in town before he leaves (if you know what I’m saying… cough.) We see a teenage boy become a recluse, friendships dissolve, and a lot of ladies growing tomatoes. It’s a good time, I recommend it!

How do my Bookworms feel about gardens?

12 Responses to “Gardens in Literature: Secret, Forgotten, and Red”

    • wordsforworms

      I wouldn’t recommend you eat anything from my garden. Actually, I’d be upset if you did. Don’t eat my flowers, Christine! (Did you see the Simpsons episode where Homer eats flowers? It’s is secret shame!)

      • Quirky Chrissy

        I’ve eaten flowers before. Some taste pretty good. Some taste like crap. Then there’s the flowers that come from herbs… mmmm…. chive flowers… mmmm

        • wordsforworms

          Since you are my real life friend and not a blog stranger, I have no qualms with calling you a savage. Savage Flower Eater! (Don’t try to eat Stargazer Lilies though. I love you in spite of your barbaric habits, and those are poisonous.)

  1. It's A Dome Life

    I have only read one of those books. I will have to keep an eye out for the other two. I’m a big Alice Hoffman fan. I’m surprised I haven’t read that one yet! Thanks for pointing them out.

    • wordsforworms

      Thanks for visiting! 🙂 I love me some Alice Hoffman- I think The Red Garden is my favorite of hers thus far. She’s got just the right brand of magical realism going on… When she’s not so depressing that I want to throw myself off a bridge… cough cough Story Sisters… Let me know how you like it when you get around to reading it!

  2. Lyssapants

    deargod, the secret garden is one of my fave books ever. In fact, when people ask me about what I want in a wedding venue, I start by saying, “Have you ever read The Secret Garden? Yeah, like that.”

    • wordsforworms

      That would make the greatest wedding venue ever! I’d like to Secret Garden my back yard… I don’t know if I get enough light for roses though…

  3. Beth

    OK I am inspired to read these books! I love reading, flowers, and want to build a secret garden for me and my grandchildren to enjoy!

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