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13 June 2008 @ 12:34 pm
Revisiting Childhood II  
 The Good: 
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

About twenty years ago Hallmark did a very lush Emmy winning production of The Secret Garden. I'd loved the book as a kid but hadn't read it in a while and I leaped at the chance to see a really good adaptation. The kids were a bit cuter than the originals but I was transported back to Misselthwaite Manor and loved every minute right up until the last commercial break before the end. 

It was all downhill after that. 

Because what we got in that last short segment was an epilogue set somewhere at the end of WWI in which we learn that the two boys have grown up and gone to war and that only one of them has returned and he is wounded. 

As an ending for a story that is so life affirming it totally sucked. 

Now, as I said, I hadn't read the book in a while and everything else in this adaptation was so true to what I remembered that I just assumed that this was in the book and I'd either forgotten it or gotten the book's ending confused with the ending of one of the previous film adaptations I'd seen. 

And so for two decades I've avoided reading the book again or seeing any other films about it. I didn't want the heartbreak of getting reattached to these children only to have things end so tragically. But the bookmobile just happened to have it on book on tape and I picked it up without even thinking about the ending until after I'd already checked it out. I decided that I could deal with it and a good cry might even be a good thing and started listening. 

I was so caught up in the wonderful ending of the story that I almost forgot to dread the epilogue to come. 

And then...

It didn't. 

The reader immediately went into the credits for the production and thanked the listener "for being a recorded books reader". A phrase that always irks me since I'm not reading a book on tape, I'm listening to it, but I was too relieved not to face the death of a character I loved to snark over it much this time. He lived! He didn't die after all! The movie got it wrong! There was much rejoicing! 

Until it occurred to me that this might be an early edition of the book or an edited version and the character might die after all. 

Now, even given that the book is almost 100 years old so the character would almost certainly be dead of SOMETHING by now it really mattered that he not die in his teens in a horrific war. So I hit the Internet to find out for sure and confirmed that yes, that was how the book really ends. With all the characters happy and filled with hope for the future. 

And according to
Wiki the book was published in 1909 so assuming that the story took place in that year it would have been a bit iffy for the younger of the two boys to have been in the thick of the fighting anyway. 

During the darkest years of my own life, during times when I did not want to live and the only reason I wasn't actively suicidal was my sense of responsibility towards certain other people in my life, I denied myself the comfort of this wonderful book that has as a central theme overcoming darkness because some idiot in Hollywood decided to make the story ... what? More relevant? More "real"? I hear that a much better movie version has been released since then and I'm going to add it to my netflix list and maybe it will wash the bad taste out of my brain about film adaptations. 

If you have somehow managed to not to read this book then click on the link on the title above and download it or if you need paper in your hands get thee to the library. The story is about two neglected children, Mary and Colin,  who find joy in life for the first time and begin to thrive when they are taken out of themselves by learning to care for a walled garden that has been neglected too. They are helped in this by an older boy, Dickon, who teaches them about nature and life. It's very mystic in a very real and grounded way. 
 
 
 
g1ne on June 13th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah.

This is one of my favoritest books of all time, too. I used to read it over and over. Time to force it on the girls, now.
G.
ranuelranuel on June 13th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
Get them A Little Princess while you're at it.
g1ne on June 13th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
We own a pretty good movie version of that one:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113670/.

We've seen a coupla versions, and this is, hands down, the best ever.
G.
ranuelranuel on June 13th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah! I like that one too. It really captures the magic of the girls' imagination and the kid playing Sara is very good.
Nightfalljenevastorme on June 15th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
I couldn't watch that Little Princess movie, I loved the book too much as a child and hate having childhood books ruined by unfaithful movie versions, and the trailers I saw made it seem too "hollywoodized" for my tastes. Maybe someday I'll give it a chance. I do like the 1993 Secret Garden movie, though, probably because I saw it before I read the book and so the story wasn't ruined for me as much. ;-) It's weird that they would switch physical descriptions, though, because the girl who played Mary Lennox would have made an excellent Sara Crewe, and the movie Sara looks very much like the description of Mary in the book.
ranuelranuel on June 15th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
The Little Princess movie is a bit slick and big budget but you'd love the bits where she is telling her stories and they come to life. I didn't mind that they didn't have a girl who looked like Sara because the actress was very good.

You want switched though? When I went to look up Garden to check the ending I found out that there is an anime that has nothing at all to do with any of Burnett's books as far as plot goes but has the conceit that every character shares the name of one of the character's in her books and some personality traits. The idea of Ermengard the mecha pilot just bends my brain.