Audrey recommends: Return to the Secret Garden by Susan Moody
Genre: Historical fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Summary: In an unofficial sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, the friendship of Mary, Colin, and Dickon is tested by world wars, unhappy marriages, and the tumultuous jazz age.
Audrey says: In the ’90s, The Secret Garden entered public domain, and a boom of content followed. There was a Broadway musical in 1991, a 39-episode Japanese anime the same year, the 1993 Agnieszka Holland film, and, in 1995, this novel, an unofficial sequel by crime fiction author Susan Moody.
If you look online, this book is absolutely overburdened by negative reviews, which complain that the text lacks the charm and whimsy of the original and has desecrated their favorite childhood story with war, sex, and tragedy. But to me, Moody’s sequel expands Burnett’s world in a brutal but believable way. Dickon goes to fight on behalf of the country he loves so much in World War I, and it destroys his perpetual optimism. Mary, stubborn and impulsive as ever, decides to cut her hair short, travel to India, and join the Communist Party. Colin remains at home, turning his garden into a career by designing tropical greenhouses for wealthy estates.
Throughout the book, the three separate and reunite in various configurations, but it’s clear that they only achieve balance when all three are together. At its core, through all the trappings of drama and suspense, it’s still a story about friendship. I truly loved this generation-spanning character study of my favorite piece of fiction. Don’t be swayed by low star ratings and give it a chance.