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BOOK REVIEW: Contemporary author digs deep into story behind ‘The Secret Garden’

Linda Dyke with Unearthing The Secret Garden

Herman Brown Free Library patron Linda Dyke suggests reading Marta McDowell’s 'Unearthing the Secret Garden: The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett.' The combination biography and gardening book explores the life of the American author who is most famous for writing 'The Secret Garden,' a beloved children’s classic. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

EDITOR’S NOTE: Share favorite reads with your Highland Lakes neighbors in The Picayune Book Nook. We will publish reviews in The Picayune Magazine and at DailyTrib.com

Book lovers of all reading levels and backgrounds are encouraged to participate. Reviews should include a short review of the book (no more than 250 words), a photo of the reviewer holding the book, and information on where the book can be found with an emphasis on local libraries.

Those interested in writing and submitting their reviews for consideration can learn more by emailing bookreview@thepicayune.com. Reviewers must be Highland Lakes residents.

“Unearthing The Secret Garden: The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett”

Written by Marta McDowell; published by Timber Press, 1921

BOOK SUMMARY: Throughout the pages of this combination biography and gardening book, Marta McDowell outlines the ways Frances Hodgson Burnett, who is most famous for writing the children’s classic “The Secret Garden,” found solace in gardening while dealing with the struggles of being a woman author in the late 1800s. 

McDowell is a New York Times-bestselling author dedicated to exploring nature’s significant role in the lives of classic authors and artists. Other published works include “All the Presidents’ Gardens” and “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” 

Reviewed by Linda Dyke, a Herman Brown Free Library patron  

As soon as I saw “Unearthing the Secret Garden,” I was swamped with memories of reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic stories. The door pictured on the cover, surrounded by flowers, was waiting to be opened and what was on the other side was waiting to be explored. 

Throughout Marta McDowell’s lovely book, readers unearth Burnett’s backstory through historical retellings. Interlaced with pictures from Burnett’s life and gardens, readers are allowed a peek at where the cherished book blossomed. 

A prolific author, Burnett produced over 50 books as well as numerous plays, essays, and articles throughout her lifetime. McDowell chronicles Burnett’s life as she begins selling her work to support her family through financial crises while also developing a consuming passion for gardening, her knowledge of which is evident in her published work.

As an elementary school student, I fell in love with Burnett’s writings and still hold a special place for the stories she expertly crafted. McDowell’s book taught me so much about Burnett that I’d never known, despite having read most of her published works. Those of us who do not aspire to gardening, but love that secret garden first depicted so long ago, will remember and want to revisit the first time we read the classic children’s tale.   

McDowell dedicates her book to anyone and everyone who has loved, loves, and will love “The Secret Garden,” and that really says it all.