Unearthing The Secret Garden

The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Pub Date 12 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 28 Dec 2021

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Description

“Affectionate and informative, Unearthing the Secret Garden is not unlike a garden itself, with its smooth lawns of prose and striking shows of illustration and photography.” —The Wall Street Journal

New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell has revealed the way that plants have stirred some of our most cherished authors, including Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. In her latest, she shares a moving account of how gardening deeply inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of the beloved children's classic The Secret Garden.
 
In Unearthing The Secret Garden, McDowell delves into the professional and gardening life of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Complementing her fascinating account with charming period photographs and illustrations, McDowell paints an unforgettable portrait of a great artist and reminds us why The Secret Garden continues to touch readers after more than a century. This deeply moving and gift-worthy book is a must-read for fans of The Secret Garden and anyone who loves the story behind the story.

“Affectionate and informative, Unearthing the Secret Garden is not unlike a garden itself, with its smooth lawns of prose and striking shows of illustration and photography.” —The Wall Street Journal

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ISBN 9781604699906
PRICE $25.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

This book is really lovely. It straddles two worlds-- biography of Hodgson Burnett and exploration of her garden experiences-- which means neither is fully delved-into, but as long as you know that going in, this is a wonderful, easy to read book for lovers of Secret Gardens of all types.

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This is a lovely history book, in the guise of a gardener’s guide. The author/researcher charts the gardens that inspired Burnett’s writing, particularly “The Secret Garden.” So much of Burnett’s personal life went into the creation of her enchanting stories—I learned a lot about her and I’m grateful for that. I loved reading The Secret Garden when I was a little girl and the movie left a lasting mark. Did I pick up this book expecting it to be a how-to guide for creating my very own Secret Garden? Yes. But was it a fine read? Very much.

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I'm a big fan of the book "The Secret Garden" so I was interested in reading about the life of the author Frances Hodgson Burnett. She was born in Manchester, England in 1849. Her and her mother moved to Knoxville, Tennessee after the death of her father. Burnett began writing stories at the age of 19 and she published a dozen novels before her greatest successes - "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1886) and "The Secret Garden" in 1911. During her time, she was one of the highest paid writers in the country. Burnett herself was a colorful figure, a world traveler, entertainer and friends with Henry James and Louisa May Alcott. She was almost 50 before she created her own garden at a country estate she purchased in Kent, England. Her experiences in that garden greatly influenced "The Secret Garden". In addition to the biographical details, the book also reprints several articles Burnett wrote including an account of the robin who plays a big part in "The Secret Garden". A list of the plants she grew in her gardens (she later lived in New York and Bermuda) is also included. The book is nicely illustrated with portraits of Burnett, her gardens and illustrations from editions of "The Secret Garden".

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Unearthing The Secret Garden: The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett by Marta McDowell This sensitive, appreciative, and exquisitely illustrated book is a welcome gift to fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved novel. It has guaranteed appeal for those who share the author’s passion for gardening—roses in particular—and many writers who find inspiration in the natural world. McDowell traces Burnett’s earliest gardening influences, from her floral-themed childhood alphabet book to an abandoned walled garden in Salford in the north of England, to the very different environment of Tennessee, to which her widowed mother emigrated. Unexpectedly, Burnett did not actually become a gardener until the age of fifty, long after achieving her youthful success as a writer for the most popular journals of her day, and following marriage, motherhood, the creation of the iconic and influential novel Little Lord Fauntleroy, her tragic loss of a young son, and inevitable divorces. It was the fortuitous purchase of Maytham Hall in Kent, an unadorned canvas upon which she could paint in flowers of all kinds, but mostly roses, that provided her with an Arcadia to absorb a considerable amount of her substantial fortune. The combination of walled gardens, rose arbors, orchards, and a friendly robin did not immediately find their way into her fiction. Only after she was forced to abandon it, in order to join her surviving son in New York, did her memory and imagination produce The Secret Garden. Her depiction of contrary Mary Lennox’s rebirth and renewal within the brick walls of her Yorkshire oasis (Maytham transformed into the more massive Misselthwaite Manor well to the north) arose out of longing for a place lost to her creator. But Burnett did find solace in making new gardens—at her London Island mansion and later the Bermuda cottage to which she fled in avoidance of harsh American winters. McDowell draws upon her subject’s memoir and many writings, but also family papers, and presents the reader with a wealth of photographs of Burnett within her gardens, and the gardens of Maytham as they exist in the present. In the final section, she includes a selection of Burnett’s gardening articles as well as a list of plants she grew. In the afterward, a great-great granddaughter briefly reflects on the familial connection to the classic novel. This book is a treasure, one for absorbing, reading and re-reading—and sharing with likeminded persons. (Timber Press, hardcover/ebook/audio, 320 pp., 28 September, 2021)

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At risk of alienating myself from book lovers everywhere, I have only read The Secret Garden once and that was last year, and honestly, I didn’t think much of it. I absolutely adored the Maggie Smith film version from my childhood, but I didn’t find the book that special. But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the book’s history and how Frances Hodgson Burnett depicted such an absorbing garden. In Martha’s book, she has provided some of the original illustrations from The Secret Garden which are just simply delightful and make me feel like a child again. Frances came to gardening relatively late and I think that’s why her descriptions of the garden and the imagery portrays a very warm, innocent, almost childlike view. I know you run the risk of spoilers (can you really spoil a book that came out in 1911?) but I wonder if it would be more beneficial to read this book before reading The Secret Garden? I personally feel I have a more thorough understanding of Frances and her love of flowers that I might give the original text another go as I think I’ll get more out of it. The way Marta describes France’s hometown of Rolvenden makes it sound like the most magical place and I even went property searching there as it sounded wonderful - we’ll ignore the fact that the house I fell in love with was over half a million pounds. I love that Marta included some of Frances’ other, less known writings so we can see the woman behind The Secret Garden. She seemed like such a warm and loving woman. One of the latter sections which documents every plant either mentioned or planted by Frances is absolutely amazing and a godsend for bibliophiles and gardeners. The time and effort that must have taken is commendable. You can really see Marta’s passion for the topic. Also in her acknowledgments, she mentions that her mother’s grandfather was Vivien, Frances’ son, which makes Frances Marta’s great, great grandmother, so it’s not wonder she’s this passionate.

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What an absolute gem of a book! I have grown up with the story of The Secret Garden and never until. now known much of its author. But what a fascinating life she had. This book is an inspiring story of Frances’s life and also includes some of her shorter works. A truly lovely book that should be read by any fan of The Secret Garden.

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Magic. That. for me, is the best way to describe this book. As a lover of flower gardening and The Secret Garden this book was a dream come true. After finishing reading, I wanted to write a Thank You note to Marta McDowell for creating it! It was very easy to form the pictures in my mind like actually being on a walking tour of these gardens/settings. A copy of this will be on my list to buy for people at Christmas.~ Truly wonderfully done.

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Unearthing The Secret Garden: The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett by Marta McDowell is a wonderful treasure trove of everything about, and behind the book, The Secret Garden. Unearthing The Secret Garden, details Burnett’s life and background. It is full of beautiful illustrations from different versions of The Secret Garden, as well as images from Frances’s life. There are lists of the flowers she grew in her gardens and detailed illustrations of different sections of her garden. If you have read The Secret Garden and want to know more about the author’s life and her ideas for the book I would definitely recommend this book.

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This was much more than I expected it to be. The layout of the book is beautiful and the photographs of the flowers are gorgeous. Even if not a true fan of The Secret Garden, gardeners will appreciate this book for its attention to detail. This book centers her life and literary works around her flowers and gardening. The not from a descended family member was especially relevant and a surprise. I think researchers, students, and gardeners will enjoy this to reference. Thank you NetGalley for an a galley of this title!

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This beautiful book had me engaged from beginning to end! I have always been a big fan of The Secret Garden, however, I did not know a lot about its author, Frances Hogsdon Burnett. This book was the perfect remedy to that. It is beautifully illustrated, with abundant photographs from Burnett's life, and masterfully written. I loved learning about how her life experiences impacted her writing and found it intriguing that she developed her love for gardening when quite a bit older. The book includes pictures of Burnett and her gardens, as well as flowers from The Secret Garden and its inspiration. This book will be loved by bibliophiles who love this classic and gardeners alike!

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There's no other way to put it - this book was utterly magical. The Secret Garden was the first 'real book' I ever read entirely by myself when I was a child and it's always held a very special and specific part of my heart, and Marta McDowell's 'Unearthing The Secret Garden' felt like a gorgeous window into Frances Hodgson Burnett's world, The sheer amount of research and passion that has gone into creating this book is evident in every single page, and the illustrations only enhanced what was already a lush and beautiful read.

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I actually had an idea once to write a similar book, but McDowell did a much better job than I could ever do. The book is well-researched and provides an overview of both Burnett's life and her gardens and how they inspired The Secret Garden. She was a much more interesting person than I ever would have thought. I think this would have broad appeal to those familiar with Burnett's work but also those interested in gardening and biographies. It's not as densely written as a typical biography. It provides just enough of a glimpse to understand Burnett and her gardens.

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I had no idea Frances Hodgkins Burnett was so well traveled. This delightful accompaniment to The Secret Garden, is a treasure. The book brings the author to life. This is refreshing because, as a reader who has read The Secret Garden several times, it opens the gate again only with new eyes and the thrill of discovering why this cherished classic was written by this most fascinating author.

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Unearthing The Secret Garden is a gently written hybrid biography and period historical garden inspiration written and curated by Marta McDowell. Due out 12th Oct 2021, from Workman Publishing on their Timber Press imprint, it's 320 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. I read The Secret Garden in my childhood and like so many others, it helped to inculcate in me a love of planting seeds, caring for my small garden patch (in my grandparent's garden) and later plants wherever I found myself. This book is a nice homage to both Burnett's life and her own (real life) gardens as well as the other horticultural writing she produced, and some garden inspiration for translation into readers' own green spaces. The biography follows Burnett's childhood, life in England, subsequent emigration to America, and adulthood - in the words of author McDowell a riches to rags to riches story. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout with photographs and facsimile reproductions of illustrations from early editions of The Secret Garden. The photos and facsimiles are captioned and provide insight into Burnett's life, family, and social circles. There are also numerous excerpts from personal correspondence and news and other print media appearances, being one of the most highly paid authors of her time. Five stars. I found the book engaging, well written, beautifully illustrated and full of both biographical narrative and gardening inspiration. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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A beautifully formatted and well presented book. A very interesting read which added a beautiful element to a classic story.

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Having grown up loving The Secret Garden and often calling gorgeous places by the same name-- this book tugged at my heartstrings. A wonderful mix of history, biography and gardening paired with gorgeous illustrations and real photos, this book belongs on any Secret Garden fans' shelf! I will be looking up other Marta McDowell books. Just lovely!

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If you loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett as a child, as I did, you and I belong to select group of adults who yearn for their own secret garden, lush, filled with beautiful blooms, secret and private, and surrounded by a high wall to allow us to escape from the everyday, humdrum world. If you loved that book, you will love this book, too. Ms. McDowell has opened an eminently readable history of Ms. Burnett's own life, and her life as a gardener, by focusing on three gardens that Ms. Burnett planted and nurtured at three of her homes: one in England, one in New York, and one in Bermuda. Each garden was different, and each garden was special. Each garden is described in lovely terms and when possible, accompanied by many photographs. I loved seeing the real secret garden, where Burnett wrote, and reading her own essay about her very special robin. I loved the biography of Burnett as seen through her gardens and flower choices, and the final chapter by her great-granddaughter was a joy. Lavishly illustrated with photos from the various houses showing the gardens (oh, how I with there was color photography in the early twentieth century!) and those bits that still remain at her house in England, one can truly understand why The Secret Garden was the amazing book it was and remains--Burnett's love of flowers and gardening, and her innate understanding of the life cycles of flowers, plants, trees, nature itself, weave through her books and through Ms. McDowell's appreciation. The book is subtitled "The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett," and anyone reading this book will be equally inspired. This is a great gift for a garden lover or someone who read The Secret Garden over and over as a child, and who longs to escape back to it, if only for a little while. What a wonderful book, and truly one of my favorites this year.

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Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden remains one of my most beloved books of all time, both in childhood and now as an adult. It contributed to my curiosity and imagination as a child...I secretly named sloughs, houses and park walkways pretty names, as she did. And still do! Gardening was essential for Hodgson Burnett's mental and physical health and taught her more about nature and life than any education could. This delightful book describes snippets of her childhood and in greater detail her gardening/horticulture/writing life. Her flowery and insightful writing was remarkable a century ago, remains lovely to this day and surely will in the future. So easy to lose oneself in. Marta McDowell writes about Hodgson-Burnett''s marriages and children, one of whom sadly died as a youth. Her personal fears, sorrows and joys are described as she moves from home to home and plans her gardens. Leaving her beloved Maytham must have been utterly crushing. As a master gardener myself, the glorious descriptions and photographs about America lindens, chestnuts, roses, delphiniums and zinnias fill me with happiness. Oh, to have gardens as she did! And the roses...I could almost smell them when reading. McDowell really made Hodgson-Burnett's life come to life in an all-sensory way. But it's more than that...it's the cover, The Secret Garden illustrations, botanical art, dinner guests' sketches and quotes which all come together to create a very aesthetically and emotionally enchanting read. Not only was she besotted with roses but also cheery robins and garden critters. The photos of her in her gardens with her fancy hats and dresses definitely tell of a different time, but such a fascinating time! As if this beauty weren't enough, McDowell also includes short works by Hodgson-Burnett. I love the stories about her generous rose cuttings and practical tips but most of all, the insight into her story. The most breathtaking photograph is that of the cascading roses over the blue door. This is precisely how I imagined The Secret Garden to look. "Garden where you are. Garden with what you have. Simply garden." Brilliant. And so very true. All fans of Frances Hodgson-Burnett ought to read this book. And if you haven't yet read The Secret Garden, you are never too old. My sincere thank you to Timber Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this astounding book about one of the most deliciously descriptive authors ever!

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Rated on my blog as 4 1/2 stars... Peel back the cover and enter the hidden entrance into the world of Frances Hodgson Burnett, a greatly celebrated author, and discover a world of gardens and writing and more and uncover some new information...Unearthing The Secret Garden is a lovely and interesting book for gardeners, fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett and of course - The Secret Garden. The book seems well researched and well thoughtout. It's part biograpghy and part about the plants that inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett whilst writing this much treasured children's book, that has indeed become a much-loved classic that's even inspired films. The book provides a glimpse into her life and her gardens and the flowers she liked so well. The flowers are simply beautiful and there are even some useful tips, making this attractive to any gardener reading this book. The book tells of how she was born in Manchester, England in 1849 and later became friends with Little Women series writer - Louisa May Alcott when her and her mother moved to the USA after the death of her father It tells of how she started writing young and yet hadn't actually created her own garden until she was middle-aged. She infact created many gardens. There are interesting articles that have been reproduced for this book, which add a bit of depth and what's even more special is, it of course adds her voice as it were, her first hand accounts. There are also photos of her gardens, including Maytham in the UK, how they are presently. The book tells of Maytham being inspirational for transforming for The Secret Garden, into being called Misselthwaite Manor. There is much love and heartbreak that is shown in Frances Hodgson Burnett's life, including family as well as the homes she lived in between the UK and US. It shows within times of upheaval and sadness, how gardens became a place of solace and brought something positive again into her life. The book also looks into her writing life and tells of some, perhaps lesser known books, which is a lovely touch and may inspire readers to explore those too. It's overall a fascinating read that has passion from page to page and you can tell that a whole lot of research went into creating this beautiful book that gives a sizeable glimpse into life - both personal and writing life and her gardens.

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Unearthing The Secret Garden is also subtitled The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett. Marta McDowell’s book is actually about the second part of the title, the places that Frances Hodgson Burnett lived and the gardens that she loved when she was at those places. While some of The Secret Garden is incorporated into the book it is mostly about the author of that book. I did not discover The Secret Garden until I was an adult. It is a story I learned to love especially the positive changes and growth in the young characters. However, I never realized how much that Frances Hodgson Burnett's gardens play in her enjoyment of life. Along with the narrative there are garden photographs that include Frances Hodgson Burnett, more recent drawings, and plant photos. Unearthing The Secret Garden is an interesting easy to read book. I would recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed The Secret Garden but also to those who enjoys visiting gardens. The publisher through Net Galley provided a digital ARC. I have voluntarily decided to read and review, giving my personal opinions and thoughts.

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I always loved the Secret Garden but I didn't know about Frances Burnett's life. This was a fascinating discovery of Burnett's life, gardens and what is behind The Secret Garden. Great illustration, well researched and enthralling. I travel in time and space and learned something new. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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This is a really detailed, lovely book about Frances Hodgson Burnett, her life, and her gardens. I was hoping for more of a garden book but this is definitely more of a biography. It's a wonderful one though, especially for those who are fans of Burnett's books.

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Oh my goodness, what a beautiful book. The author explores the homes and gardens of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden. She always loved gardens, and as she acquired the wealth to improve them, she did. This book is lavishly and beautifully illustrated with photographs and drawings. The text is easy to read, and provides a biographical overview for Burnett. It also includes excerpts from some of her writings, as well as a catalogue of her favorite plants and flowers. I cannot recommend this book enough. It will inspire you to create a haven in your own garden, if you haven't already. #UnearthingTheSecretGarden #NetGalley

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As a gardener and a love of The Secret Garden, I was really excited to read this book. I loved the pictures and the artwork. The book is beautiful and would be a great gift for gardeners and book lovers alike.

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