Summary: When "contrary" Mary's parents die, she is sent to live with her reclusive uncle. It is only through discovering her uncle's fabulous gardens--including the "secret" one that has been locked up for ten years--that Mary becomes healthier and kinder. Through her relationship with Dickon, a country boy with a knack for charming animals, and Colin, her uncle's invalid and petulant son, Mary learns a love for the outdoors and a belief in Magic.
Musings: This is one I read a very long time ago. As I mentioned in my review of Nation, I had a thing for secluded outdoor places, and The Secret Garden fit that bill.
The book is a true old-fashioned children's book, which means a lot of proselytizing about polite behavior. Every character's gruff exterior belies a heart of gold, and a number of characters (Dickon, his mother), radiate heavenly goodness. The children chirp phrases repetitively and seem to charm everyone around them. Colin's annoying preaching is actually enjoyed by not only Mary and Dickon, but the old garden keeper as well.
The best part of the book is the idea of a secret garden of one's own filled with hearty snacks (courtesy of Dickon's mother) and friendly woodland creatures (a la Snow White). Burnett's overall message seems to be that fresh air can cure all ills, and who can really argue with that?