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Source: (consider it) Thread: October Book Group: The Secret Garden
Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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Oh, Oliver's innate gravitation to the middle class is very clear. He doesn't want to be a chimney boy, loathes being a mute for a mortician. In spite of huge social pressures he is instinctively unwilling to become Bill Sikes' criminal accomplice. He knows in the marrow of his bones that he Deserves Better. Remember this was Dickens, the man who for one frightening instant was going to slip from the lower middle class down to the working class, working in the blacking factory pasting on labels. The terror of that haunted him.

The other way you could update TSG is Mary's parents. The Indian Service, so last millennium. Clearly they are hard-charging modern parents, executives with Google or some start-up. Killed in a private-plan crash near Telluride? Choke on a the bone of a roasted guinea-hen (with leek foam and garnished with lemon grass stalks) at a banquet at a Trump golf resort? And they had no real money, only mounds of Amex debt. Mary's expensive nanny is not going to hang on without pay, and takes another position on the spot.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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venbede
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# 16669

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My computer has only just got back to life, so I’m late here but I can’t resist commenting. I read it last year and found the first three quarters very moving. The last bit I found uber twee and I can’t remember the details. (The squirm-making embarrassing moment is when Mary starts talking Yorkshire. I always thought it was the height of patronising bad manners to put on the accent of those you are with.)

I’ll comment very positively later in the day.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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venbede
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# 16669

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Colin and Mary are examples of a type of character that fascinates me: someone who plays up their misery to get power of others. Other examples (none of them with the degree of woundedness of Mary or even Colin) are Dickens’ Miss Havisham in Great Expectations and Mrs Clennam in Little Dorrit, and Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. Dickens’ two women are motivated by revenge, particuarlly spiteful In the case of Mrs Clennam.

The Magic is another example of Edwardian pantheism as the wonderful Piper at the Gates of Dawn chapter in Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I find the Magic merely twee, whereas the Piper is for me one of the most convincing descriptions of mystic experience in secular literature I know.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3180 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Bishops Finger
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I would certainly agree with you about The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, one of the finest pieces of writing in the English language.

The wounded characters theme is worth pursuing (though perhaps not on this particular thread).

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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venbede
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# 16669

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I'm impressed you have the patience to do italics on this board. I find it a bit of a fiddle.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3180 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Bishops Finger
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Well, I don't have much else to occupy me today, having been to the chiropodist. My Sore Toes are keeping me indoors...

I didn't think italicisation was that much of a chore, though...

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

Posts: 9124 | From: Passing The Glums At The Bus Stop | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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What keeps Mary and Colin from being overtly exploitative of their illness is their youth. They are, clearly, brought up wrong.
Colin especially seems to have been forced into invalidism; even a strong man will become weak and ailing if you enforce bed rest. He's surrounded by servants ant the evil Dr. Neville telling him that he's going to have a hunch any old day now, which would give anyone hysterics. And of course the good Lord only knows what medicines he's being dosed with -- chlorodyne, Warburg's tincture, arsenical compounds, blue pills. He's probably living on a diet of sago pudding, never a vegetable or fruit until Dickon gives him a baked potato.
Mary, inherently healthier and more self-willed, is depicted as vitiated by her Indian upbringing. She does work it. But since nobody cooperates with her memsahib ways, she does change. They're both young enough -to- change.
The person in the text who is exploiting his misery is, IMO, Archibald. A borderline abusive parent.

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Bishops Finger
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Quite so, and Archibald is only slightly eclipsed by the evil Doctor.

I hates him, yess, I does....

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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Fuzzipeg
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# 10107

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I must admit that I haven't scrabbled through all four pages of the thread but there are two things that haven't been mentioned. One is the concept of the Garden in Western European from the gardens of the ancients such as Hesperides, to Eden and he Secret or Walled Garden...the Virgin in a Rose Garden enclosed..herself a Mystic Rose which leads to a Rosarium.

The second point is that the author was a Christian Scientist and that profoundly influences the healing aspects of the book.

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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And she too found healing in her garden. (Which was as I recall in Long Island, NY.) Burnett's husbands were feckless, and her eldest son Lionel died of consumption. So in another sense this is the author, using fiction to rewrite that sad episode: My son doesn't die, he is healed in the garden.

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Bishops Finger
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Another interesting subject for a thread might therefore be the extent to which an author's personal life, and/or beliefs, inform(s) his or her novels.

As far as The Secret Garden is concerned, largely enjoyable though it was, I can honestly say that it has not made me rush to read any more of Burnett's work.

I find myself disliking pretty well all the characters (with the possible exception of Mary, who did, after all, have a horrible upbringing in India), and wishing all kinds of awful endings for Dickon....which may well say more about me than him!

[Help]

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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Brenda Clough
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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
Another interesting subject for a thread might therefore be the extent to which an author's personal life, and/or beliefs, inform(s) his or her novels.

Oh, there are entire careers in English Lit built on that proposition -- analyses of Shakespeare's sexuality as expressed in the sonnets, Dickens' days in the blacking factory and the shadow it casts over his oeuvre, Marlowe's spy career referred to in his plays, etc. Writers are told to write what they know. But it is in fact all they can do, all any artist can do.

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Bishops Finger
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...at the risk of invoking King Charles' Head, might I add Wilkie Collins' addiction to laudanum?

Authors are in themselves a fascinating area of study.... [Snigger]

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

Posts: 9124 | From: Passing The Glums At The Bus Stop | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
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And the reverse thought is a little disturbing. Do you ever =wonder= about Stephen King, for example?

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Gill H

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# 68

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I have been following the thread with interest. TSG was a favourite of mine as a 10 year old, not least because of how I came upon it. On holiday with parents, we visited an old friend of theirs who I had never met - an elderly man. I had steeled myself for the usual hours of boredom, but as soon as we got there he took me to his bookshelf and invited me choose a book to read while the adults talked. I chose TSG which I had seen the BBC series of, but not read. By the end of the visit I was deep into the book, and he told me I could keep it. What a kindred spirit (to quote another childhood favourite)!

Has anyone read ‘The Painted Garden’ by Noel Streatfeild? It follows a British fsmily on a long holidsy in the US. The eldest daughter is a dancer and ends up meeting Pauline and Posy Fossil from Ballet Shoes. The youngest, a boy, is a gifted pianist and gets a job playing in an Italian restaurant, which leads to him going on the radio IIRC. The middle one, who is of course a ‘plain and difficult’ girl with no obvious artistic talents, is spotted by a film producer and stars in a film version of TSG.

Fascinating example of crossover fiction!

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Curiosity killed ...

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Wasn't the boy playing Dickon in The Painted Garden really interested in animals, and able to attract chipmunks? I thought I'd read something like that but couldn't track it down to work out which book it was. I hadn't remembered the brother getting a book on the radio. I read as many Streatfeild's as I could find as a child and remembering which is which has blurred.

There was a reading of Penelope Lively's The Life in Gardens on BBC R4 yesterday that mentioned The Secret Garden as an example of children's books set in gardens and went on to discuss Tom's Midnight Garden.

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Gill H

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Yes, and the boy playing Colin was a total brat!

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Brenda Clough
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Good casting then.
In an era when the children in literature tended to be more on the line of Little Lord Fauntleroy or Tiny Tim, Colin and Mary are a breath of fresh air. One more angelically pretty and supernally adorable child and you want to throw something.

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Sparrow
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# 2458

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
And she too found healing in her garden. (Which was as I recall in Long Island, NY.) Burnett's husbands were feckless, and her eldest son Lionel died of consumption. So in another sense this is the author, using fiction to rewrite that sad episode: My son doesn't die, he is healed in the garden.

And of course there was the one in The Magician's Nephew.

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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andras
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I'm reminded of the young sourcerer (yes, that's right!) Coin in Pratchett's Sourcery who at the end of the book creates a magic garden into which he himself disappears.

Now that seems to me to be the perfect metaphor for what all writers do. It's even crossed my mind to wonder whether Shakespeare's 'ladies' actually existed at all, or were just a literary invention, with all their personal details just 'put in for the rhyme.'

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Adrian Plass

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
It's even crossed my mind to wonder whether Shakespeare's 'ladies' actually existed at all, or were just a literary invention, with all their personal details just 'put in for the rhyme.'

In Shakespeare's case it's mostly a young man.
John Donne has a sideswipe at poets advocating platonic love 'who have no mistress but their muse'.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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andras
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
quote:
Originally posted by andras:
It's even crossed my mind to wonder whether Shakespeare's 'ladies' actually existed at all, or were just a literary invention, with all their personal details just 'put in for the rhyme.'

In Shakespeare's case it's mostly a young man.
John Donne has a sideswipe at poets advocating platonic love 'who have no mistress but their muse'.

Indeed - and I suspect that he may be just as fictional as, say, the Dark Lady - or, indeed, as Dafydd Gwilym's Ladies of Llanbadarn. That's what writers do is make things up!

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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