Oh dear. I think someone got The Secret Garden mixed up with Jane Eyre, The Enchanted Wood, and I don’t know what else, unless I’ve somehow always missed the bits where Misselthwaite Manor burns down, the leaves in the garden magically die and come back to life depending on people’s moods, and the garden itself is about 100 acres of meadows, woodlands and tropical flowers with visions appearing all over it. It was lovely to see the Bodnant Garden laburnum arch in flower, which I didn’t get to see this year due to lockdown, and I think the sunken temple bits were filmed at Fountains Abbey, but none of it bore any resemblance whatsoever to Lilias Craven’s small walled garden. And how exactly could you keep something that size a secret?
Also, why on earth were we told that it was set in the year of Indian independence and Partition? The book was published in 1911 Oh, I just need to point out that Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in Cheetham Hill, and that her family had to sell their business because of the Cotton Famine, because everyone needs to know this. She’d been dead for 23 years by 1947! And cholera epidemics and delicate children being kept in their bedrooms all the time aren’t exactly very 1940s, are they? On top of that, Ben the gardener was missed out completely, and we were told that Mary’s dad was lovely and that her mum was only narky because she was grieving for her sister.
I suppose it was quite an entertaining film. And it looked gorgeous – the garden was absolutely stunning. But it didn’t really have a lot to do with the book. OK, the basic story was there – Mary was orphaned in India, went to live with her grumpy uncle in Yorkshire, made friends with Dickon and Martha, and persuaded Colin to get out and about. But, if you’re looking for something that’s faithful to the book, this isn’t it. I know that people have different ideas about whether or not films should follow the books on which they’re based, and maybe it doesn’t matter that much if people enjoy the film, but I would have preferred something rather more faithful to the book.
The garden was lovely, though …