Thursday, 10 September 2020

Beyond the Secret Garden - The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett by Ann Thwaite

 I think we always remember that one book that really captured our imagination and gave us that love of reading.

For me, when I was little the story that really caught my attention was The Secret Garden. After reading the book, I then proceeded to listen to it on tape (yes I am that old) over and over again.

It is a tale that I still recommend to this day.

So you can imagine how I felt when I got the chance to read Beyond the Secret Garden, The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett. I've always been rather fascinated with what authors of these classic books are like, what enables them to conjure up such beautiful stories.


Most people have heard of Little Lord Fauntleroy, and of The Secret Garden. Yet few people realize that the same woman wrote both books, 25 years apart, and was considered, along with Henry James, one of the leading writers in America on the strength of the adult novels which made her name in the 1870s and 1880s. Frances Hodgson Burnett's favourite theme in fiction was the reversal of fortune, and she herself knew extremes of poverty and wealth. Born in Manchester in 1849, she emigrated with her family to Tennessee at the close of the Civil War. On the surface, her life was extremely successful. She played the roles of Famous Writer and Fairy Godmother with enthusiasm, but happiness eluded her. She was always waiting for the party, but it went on in other rooms.

A well written book

Ann has a way of writing that is both detailed and sympathetic. She manages to portray things in a way that doesn't just give us an insight into the life of the person she's chose to write about but also about what life itself was like during those times.

I didn't realise that Frances suffered such hardship as she was trying to achieve her dream of being a writer.

But I guess it comes as no surprise seen as we still see these sorts of struggles in our world now.

Time to imagine

Frances knew both poverty and wealth and I see her as a fantastic role model, both then and now.

With two failed marriages you see that as a woman you don't need a man to be successful, I mean she was the highest paid author in America!

As I read I found myself imagining just what it was like to live through that era.

Old but new

Some of you may be thinking that you're sure you've read this book before and you'd be right. It was originally published in 2007 but has been given a new lease of life in this latest edition.

Now adorned with a special foreword from author Jacqueline Wilson, it has been granted another chance to feature on people's book shelves.

If you didn't get a chance to read it first time round I suggest you take the time to read it now.

Ann, who is now 87 years old herself, is herself a fantastic writer.

Beyond the writer

Beyond the Secret Garden is a book that despite not being filled with edge of your seat goings on, remains a page turner.

We as the reader get taken on a journey that is charming and intriguing.

If you are a fan of France's work then you will want to read this book.

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