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