It’s 4 o’clock in the morning, and I’m trying to polish a manuscript and do other things to prepare for the GRW Moonlight and Magnolias conference this weekend. What I need, a least for the moment, is a respite. What do I choose?
The Secret Garden.
The Secret Garden is a wonderful children’s story by Frances Hodgson Burnett, also of A Little Princess fame. My favorite versions of both books are illustrated by Tasha Tudor.
The Secret Garden is the story of Mary Lennox, a very difficult child who has been raised in the lap of luxury by her neglectful parents, British aristocrats living in India. When they are killed, she is sent to live in England with her uncle, Archibald Craven, at his lonely, isolated house, Misselthwaite Manor. Years before, Craven’s beloved wife was killed in her garden when a heavy tree branch fell on her. He locked the garden so that no one should ever go into it again. He cut himself off as well, travelling far and wide to escape the memories of his lost love.
Left to entertain herself with instructions to bother no one, Mary discovers the garden and searches until she finds the key to enter the forbidden place. Inside she discovers that, like herself, the garden is neglected but still full of life. With the help of a local boy who has a way with both plants and animals, she brings the garden back to life. It’s magic extends to her discovery of her crippled cousin, who is also healed by the power of the secret garden.
For my current respite, I am watching the movie starring Kate Maberly and Maggie Smith. The story on its own is enough for my romantic imagination, but there are many things I can recommend about this production.
- Kate Maberly is perfectly cast. She is a beautiful child, but her expression is truly nasty when Mary is being contrary. On the other hand, her whole face lights up when she is happy, but her eyes are always haunted with the conviction that no one really wants her.
- Maggie Smith is also perfect as the rigid housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock. She loves the crippled Colin like he is her own son, and is terrified that he should heal and not need her anymore.
- The other characters are also well-cast and just as I imagined them even before I saw the movie. Martha, the servant girl who treats Mary like the child she is; her brother Dickon, whose mystical way with animals and plants brings Mary and the garden back to life; and tortured Uncle Archie, who is afraid to love a son who desperately craves his attention.
- The time-lapse photography of the garden growing and the moors coming to life in the spring is stunning
- There is a magic infusing the whole story, so that there is the underlying feeling that there are other forces at work besides the schemes and plans of one determined little girl.
- Finally and ultimately most important, this story has a happy ending that is beautifully delivered by the movie. I love a good, happy ending. In fact, I really must insist on it if I a going to find it a worthwhile respite.
Take some of your precious time and spend it in The Secret Garden. You will not be disappointed.