The Secret Garden will forever be the most important book from my childhood. My sister was a little older, and on school holidays she used to take time to read to me.
I can still remember sitting in my dad’s old green armchair in our family room which was lined with books, listening to her. When she read The Secret Garden she always did her best to make the voices sound real, especially Dickon’s broad accent. It was like being right there on the English moors.
I experienced so many emotions listening to that story (which I later went on to read myself, many times) – fear, isolation, sadness, determination, wonder. Mary was a the first strong and defiant female character I’d met in fiction and her determination to survive the loss of her parents and help Colin to better health was inspiring. The secret garden itself was the sort of place every child wants to discover and have as their special secret. A few years ago, when I went to the Varuna Writers Centre, I found their tiny walled garden – it was the closest thing I’d ever seen to a secret garden and I was immediately taken back to age nine.
Burnett’s theme of the inherent healing power of nature really appealed to me and I think has long influenced the way I think about the world. Interestingly, I resisted seeing the film adaptation. I really didn’t want my own perfect vision of the story reinvented or tainted in any way. The memory is so precious. When I became a god mother for the first time, I gave my goddaughter that as a christening present. It seemed to be the most important thing from my life that I could pass on to her; a story or survival and courage that also tells of the importance of friends and family and nature in our lives.
Marianne’s latest YA book is ‘Angel Arias’ (Random House Australia), Book 2 in the ‘Burning Bright’ series. Book 3 – ‘Shine Light’ – will be released in November 2012. For more, see the Burning Bright website, or Marianne’s website.