One Day Review – ‘What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?’




Hi readers,


I just finished reading One Day by David Nicholls and having no plans for the next hour, I thought I’d write my review so that I could have it ready for putting up after I’ve done the third Looking Glass Wars book. I always get this odd feeling when I finish a book. I guess other people get it too, its a mixture of things and there’s no easy way to describe it because it depends on my experience with the book.


I always feel a sense of completion at finishing reading though, even if I didn’t get the ending or a didn’t like the book as a whole. Sometimes I feel annoyed that the book has ended because I was enjoying it so much or else the ending turned out to be an anti-climax, where more should have happened to bring closure. A part of me feels sad that I now have to leave those characters when they have become my friends and I won’t be wondering through the fictional settings any more. But there is a small part of me that knows I can return whenever I want as I only have to pick up the book again to be be back in that story.


I have a bad habit with the books I really really like. I’ll try and draw out the last set of chapters, so that it feels like the story is longer and I can spend more time enjoying it before I close the back cover. Then I’ll spend a few minutes thinking about the book, before moving on to the next. I’ve never been a fan of books that have won prizes and/or been famous, I guess because I tend to stick with one genre and don’t expand out to look at others. However, my main reason for this is because I’ve never been keen on fiction books that have a ‘real life’ theme to them. I read to escape from the stresses of life and find it hard to get into books that focus on ‘normal’ peoples’ lives.


Saying that though, I do sometimes come across these genre of books that I do actual like. Maybe its because I can connect with the characters and the stories are so well written that I easily get into them and find it difficult to stop reading. One Day is just that. I had heard of the book before I picked it up and people had told me how good it was. It just took me awhile to buy and read it as I was unsure if I’d like it. I try not to pick up a book and judge it there and then. I try and set my thoughts aside and read the first half, before deciding on it. I was hooked on One Day straight a way because I liked the idea behind it and I wanted to see how Nicholls had been able to write it.


Parts of this book are also very quotable and some great lines are said. So to stop this post looking like a mass of text, I’ve searched around for some of my favourite quotes with picture/photo backgrounds to go along side my words. It also means I won’t have to type out the bulk of the quotes I want to share and look at in detail.




Firstly, the cover for One Day -as above- is really eye catching and simple. It conveys the book’s subject of two people and the passage of time. I really like the cover because even though the faces are in silhouette you get the impression that they are good looking people, also that they are just about to kiss. I prefer original art work to book covers then stills from the movies based on them. I think this is because sometimes the adoptions can influence how the book is read and the covers just don’t like as good!

One day is the story of two people, Emma and Dexter, across twenty years, who try and meet up or make contact on the same day of the year- 15th July, St. Swithin’s day. The story starts with them in bed having meet after their graduation from university. They discuss what they could do with the rest of their lives and how they might make a difference in the world. After they part as friends, agreeing to stay in connect. From that point onwards every chapter is set one year on and we catch up with what they have been doing and we get to see the development of their friendship/relationship.


I could go on about all the different events that happen, but I feel like I’d be giving too much away and spoiling some of the twists. The effects of the events are handled really well and it doesn’t feel like they have been placed as obstacles before the characters, more like they have just happened through the process of life. One thing I really wasn’t expecting as I draw towards the ending was the sudden turn of fate that happens. It was always clear that the characters would end up together at some point, as the main plot is built around this idea. However, the unexpected ending really hits home the cruelness of life, also it fits in with the themes in the book and so doesn’t actual seem out of place on reflection.


The plot is very character driven and fitted around their actions. This works well because it feels very realist and reflects the choices that people make every day. The plot has a very real life feel to it with different events happening to each character. These events are a mixture of happy moments, sad/tragic times, personal triumphs, dreams coming alive and missed opportunities. It makes the reader question “what if?” in places too as the characters miss chances to get together or go down certain paths. I think everyone can connect with this and it allows the reader to question their own lives and missed things.


In some ways, it feels like there isn’t an actually plot to this book, because we are just following two people living out their lives. This creates a natural story because it doesn’t seem like you are reading fiction. It feels more like someone’s memories and the dating of the chapters adds to this. There is also the appearance of historic events in the background, which make it more realistic and gives the characters talking points. Most readers should know of these events as the readership is aimed at young adults.




The narrative of the story is third person and switches points of view from Emma to Dexter throughout the chapters. At times the tense also switches from past to present and back again. The shifts are done really well and there is no jarring or sudden jumps between the points of view. Often this is because Nicholls has his current character thinking about the other and so the changing narrative feels natural.


The characters are excellently written and remain three dimensional throughout. They go through a lot of development, which is important to keep up with the ever changing time span. They also reflect on their younger selves questioning their liking, disliking or support of things and how that has changed as they’ve got older. All the characters are very like able and  easy to connect with. You also become a emotionally attached to them and because of the way the story is written, you start to feel like Em and Dex are your best friends and you feel everything along side them. This draws you in and you feel gripped to carry on reading to see what happens.


The background characters connect with Dex and Em because they are either family, friends or co-workers. Each of these character’s stories become part of Dex or Em’s stories and pop in and out of their lives, the same way people naturally do. All of these characters are just as complex and three dimensional. Some even have development and reappear as events unfold. This adds another layer to the reality of the novel and really shows how useful background characters can be.


There a lot of themes, but the main ones are friendship, family, relationships, death/lost and love. These are mixed in with the sub-themes of alcoholism, drugs, music, politics, literature and travel. All together these  themes don’t overwhelm the narrative,which is a massive achievement because it would be so easy to become stuck down with so much going on! I think as they are spread out and kept in the background because of the year leaps, they become more like hints or suggestions. This works though because it just adds to the depths of the characters and gets the reader thinking.


To go with everything else contained in this novel is a whirlwind of settings. You would easily become lost if the chapters didn’t declare where the characters where. Really, it seems they go all over the world, but the bulk of the story takes place in the greater London area. It really does help having a central setting and it was also refreshing for me to read a British novel! We start in Edinburgh and do circle back to it later on, then move to Bombay, Greece, France and a range of UK places. We see fleeting glimpses of most of these places in letters or conversation, so the narrative doesn’t district too much. However, enough description is given to each place to bring it alive and they do appear to be suitable backgrounds to the characters throughout their lives.




It’s easy to see why this book has won awards and so many positive reviews. It captures not only twenty years of British history, but twenty years in the lives of two people, who are destined to be together but are kept apart by fate. I was unexpectedly gripped and got carried away by this novel and it really is a story that will make you smile, laugh and cry. It’s beautifully told,easy to read and you become unable to put it down. It’s also one of those books makes you want to  re-read it straight a way!


One Day became a movie in 2011. Though I’ve not seen it, I know that Nicholls wrote the screenplay and adapted his book to the big screen. Luckily, he’s also a screenwriter and had previously written; Starters For 10 and When Did You Last See Your Father? He has co-wrote other movies, adapted classics to the TV screen and wrote a number of scripts for different British dramas. I look forward to seeing the movie at some point as I believe it is a really good adaptation of the book.


The last thing I love about One Day is that I could easily relate to the first half of the novel. Having graduated myself, currently not working and wondering what to do next, I found that I was able to sympathises with Em because I’m in her position. I felt that some of the quotes about living inspired me and made me want to actually get out there and start doing more things. I would so recommend this book to graduates and people who are in a limbo about their lives.


Overall, I love this book and can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it! I think its set to be a modern classic and for Lit students to studied it. So much can be got out of this book and there is so much to explore  within the lines and between them. It’s odd how a book that is packed with so much, could work as well as it does, but the plot and narrative are excellent. The characters really do become your best friends because you feel so involved with their lives that by the time its all over you feel like you’ve lost them. I’d recommended this book to anyone because no matter what you enjoy reading, you’ll love this!

 Movie - one day Wallpaper



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Arch Enemy Review – The Final Battle For Wonderland Has Begun.

ArchEnemy (The Looking Glass Wars, #3)



Hey readers,


So, I’ve finally finished the third book! Took a lot longer than I thought and once again I’m feeling like I didn’t actually enjoy it all that much. Though it hardly remind me of the first book, I just wasn’t caught up enough in the story to get really into reading it. It seems predictable in parts too and there’s not many twists. I knew how things were going to work out, but I felt that the journey getting there wasn’t exciting enough. It’s still a typical good vs evil plot and the out come stays true to this. However, I’d have liked a little more….I don’t know imagination? Though that seems rather ironic since this book is all about saving imagination!


For me the second book was my favorite, because I got into the story a lot more and it felt better written then the first. The third isn’t badly written, it just seems lacking and in places seems more screenplay like the novel like. I guess it really isn’t my kind of book, but I can see why younger readers would be taken by it. The one comparison I can think of making is to Treasure Island. I read this believing it would be more adult then it turned out to be and granted I knew it was a children’s book, but I still believed that there would be a lot more depth to it, but by the time I’d finished it I felt really disappointed. I then picked up Flint and Sliver by John Drake and found it to be just what I was hoping Treasure Island would be. I was hoping that The Looking Glass Wars would be an adult version of Alice, but this is far for the case.


I don’t dislike this trilogy, but for me it just has a few problems and I think the way it’s written is one of its main issues. There’s nothing wrong with the characters and even in the third book they are well developed and continue to grow as they learn things. They also have key roles to play, which helps to move the plot along. I still also like the connect with Earth that the plot makes. We once again get the Liddell family and Lewis Carroll appearing and its nice to this consistence with characters. The introduction of new characters gives it a fresh edge and adds some more helping hands to the war efforts. I guess some more depth into the characters would have been nice, but I know how hard it is to do this when there are so many of them.


In my last two reviews, I don’t think I really talked about Beddor’s use of sound effects. These often appear throughout the book and echo the sounds you would hear if you were witnessing the item in action. Though these are really thoughtful and do add something to the visuals on the page, I did feel they were a bit childish and probably more comic book suited. They were over-used and I got a bored with seeing them. Normal sound description works fine within most books and for most readers and I just felt that in some places the sound effects weren’t needed.


My other problem with Arch Enemy is the fighting scenes. I got a little bored of the fighting towards the end. I guess the constant repetitive action scenes weigh the plot down too much and though this is mixed in with other events happening, the chopping back and forth left me feeling a bit dizzy. When I think about the Drizzt books and how they deal with fighting scenes, I can see the difference straight away. It feels a lot more choreographed and the writer is very knowledgeable about how his character would use his weapons in battle. I just didn’t get the same feeling out of Arch. The writing of these scenes didn’t feel rushed, but for me a lot more could have gone into them. As the final battle was reaching it’s end, I didn’t get much satisfaction out of characters completing missions they had set themselves. However, I did like the idea that Dodge felt no sense of close at the death of The Cat, who he’d been trying to kill to get vengeance for the murder of his father.


The obstacles that Alyss faces are good. She is fighting two enemies now and must decided what’s best for Wonderland. She does think like a queen throughout, beside from one point, where she drops everything to go and rescue the Liddells’. She is then trapped on Earth because Arch has had the Pool Of Tears drained and the water evaporated. Lucky, Molly is there and able to create another portal which allows them back. I thought Molly could have been more used, but since she needs the time to get over the events of the second book, its understandable why Beddor didn’t use her more. Once again, I’d have liked to see more of the relationship between Alyss and Dodge, though they do get to gather at the end. In some parts you can see where Beddor has tried to fit this in, but I felt that a lot more could have been made out of it. More detail about their feelings and the struggle for them to be in love when there was so much else going on, could have added another layer to the story.


One thing I’ve found that I did really like about the trilogy was the art work used on the books. I was drawn to the images because they looked different and interesting. My copy of the third book is in hardback and on the pages dividing the book into pages are art works of Wonderland scenes. It reflected the art used in Alice. I don’t know if the hardback versions of 1 and 2 did this as well, because the paperbacks didn’t.


The ending works well, though I think I did want a little more out of it, but the characters have learned what they have to do and are able to complete their tasks. Beddor also seems to have issues killing off characters and I don’t like how he handled this, because it felt like characters who should be dead escaped it. I guessed also what would happened to the caterpillars- well anyone who’s read Alice will also know it.- It did feel like a nicely rounded off ending, but maybe it would have suited a more open ended one?


Overall, I found Arch Enemy a struggle to get through. It just didn’t grip me and it just lacked in the key areas of writing and adventure. For the last book in a trilogy, it feels pretty flat and predictable. The trilogy over all isn’t that bad and some parts I did find interesting and readable, but I just got bored of the repetitive fighting scenes, lack of real development in Alyss’s and Dodge’s relationship and the jagged jumping between characters. I would tell people to read this and come up with their own conclusion about it, though I would tell them that its not a re-telling of Alice or an adult version of the story.


Seeing Redd Review – ‘The Evil Redd Heart Has Returned.’



Hey readers,


I’ve fallen a little behind with things again and I’m still struggling to write and get my mind back in gear. Writing on here does help some what and its a good way to pass time. Especially when time feels really stretched out and boredom is your constant companion. I thought since I still had Seeing Redd sat on my old TV stand, that I’d write my review up before I gave it back. If you’ve not read my review of the first book which is below this post, then you might want to do that. I don’t plan to compare things in great detail, but this is the second book of the trilogy and it does pick up from the ending of the first one. This also means that I won’t be looking at the characters or the setting in as much detail as I covered them last time. Seems like its going to be a short post then!


The book opens with a prologue about Redd wondering through her Looking Glass Maze and finding her sceptre which gives her access to her full powers. Redd wants to take back Wonderland and get rid of Alyss- her niece for good- and now it seems she is able to do just that. That part happens later in the book and we actually open with Alyss, Bibwit and Homburg Molly exploring the re-built Heart Place. Alyss is having a hard time getting use to being a Queen and spends sometime wishing she was back on earth or else she was a child again. But as much as the responsibilities of being queen get to her, she deals with them all really well. It makes her a much stronger character in in this book. The fear of Redd attacking again has Wonderland on the alert, but they face a new enemy this time around in the form of King Arch, who rules over one of the neighbouring countries. Arch tries to make everyone believe that Redd is actually back and he does get away with it until she actually appears.


At the end of the first book Redd and the Cat escape to earth and we get some chapters showing what she’s up too. This keeps a similarity  to the first book and we also get the Lewis Carrol character again! So, that was a nice touch. Redd is gathering members of a new army, so she can go back and try to win the throne again. There’s an handful of new characters here, including an old friend of Bibwit, who is tells Redd about her own looking glass maze. This is mostly sub-plot though and I’m hoping that the real battle will take place in the 3rd book. Less time is spent with these characters because the focus is mostly on Alyss counting Arch.


There is also more relationship development between Alyss and Dodge, but for me this just gets lost almost the main plot. I’d like to see more happening with them, but I guess there wasn’t enough time or space for that. I know its not a romance novel, but some love does move things along and everyone can easily connect with it. There is also another relationship here between Hatter and Weaver, which I thought worked at well and give another side to Hatter. The twist about Molly being their daughter is no great surprise, but it was fun to see the characters reactions to the news.


Molly developments a lot and becomes one of the main characters. She is used by Arch to blow up the travel system and also made to go against the queen as she blames herself for what happens. So, instead of spending most of the book by Alyss side being her bodyguard, Molly is capture by Arch and spend most of her time thinking about what she’s done, questioning her nature and abilities and then meeting the parents who abandoned her. She helps fight for her freedom towards the end and is able to escape. I really like Molly and she is possibly my favourite character.


I enjoyed this book much more then the first one because I felt it was better written. The narrative structure was a lot tighter and snapper. The pace was also faster and I got into the story quickly. There is less of the Carroll-isms too and the tone of the vocabulary becomes much more of Beddor’s own. Which does suit the narrative a lot better. The language also feels more adult aimed, though it still has a teenage age group. That helps to improve the quality as well. Also I found that the plot gets freer of making references to the actual Alice In Wonderland, and that helps it a lot to become a story in its own right. The fantasy, action/adventure genre is still present, but I found it less awing and nothing really new is added to the settings. The fighting scenes are still really good and we get to see much more of Alyss using her powers too.


I’ve got high hopes for the next one and I’d like to write about it so that I can have all three together. This means it might be another month before I write a new post. But since I’ve been reading books in-between each of them, I’ve lots more writing to be getting on with, though I’ll try and not publish everything all at once!


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The Looking Glass Wars Review – The True Story Of Alice In Wonderland




Hey readers,


With April still feeling like February, I thought I’d spend more time curled up reading, then enjoying the Spring time air. My boyfriend lent me this, believing I’d like it and strangely enough I’d read Alice In Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass last month. I’d been meaning to write about them too, but I’ve fallen behind with posting up reviews, but they’ll be written soon enough. I’d heard of The Looking Glass Wars before and been interested in them then. However, it’s only now that I’ve got my hands on a copy and read it!


This is actually the first book in a trilogy and I do want to read the other two to see how Frank Beddor continues the story. Actually, as a person this author is pretty interesting, as he is a producer, an actor and a freestyle skier. He was inspired to write by a pack of playing cards he saw in the Museum Of London. He explains about this in the ‘forward’ to the novel and how he was actually told this story by a card dealer. Also that the true story of Wonderland ‘involves bloodshed, murder, revenge and war.’1 So, yeah, a very different story to Lewis Carrol’s then. 


To be honest, when I first started reading this, I found it hard to get into. Part of the reason might have been that I did have the Alice In Wonderland characters and plot in my head. I’d so recommend that you forget everything you’ve ever known about Carrol’s stories before you start reading this. The Looking Glass Wars is not a re-telling of the classic story, more it uses Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass as a loose base for the main characters and the setting. Saying that, I was wondering that if this book didn’t have the Alice connection, would it have been published and been able to have achieved the readership it has? 

Standing alone as a fantasy story, this novel does seem to work. The set up and introduction of Wonderland and characters is very clear. (You don’t need to have read Carrol’s stories either or even be aware of them! Which is a good sign of any novel using another as its base) The story has taken on its own life driven by the goals of the characters and it’s very easy to become lost in the world of Wonderland. So, there is a lot more going for this novel then just the Alice connection. 


The other reason why I struggled to get into it, has to do with the way the narrative is written. Granted, most of the novels I read are aimed at adults, with the vocabulary to suit and unless I’m looking back on classics from my childhood, I don’t really pick up children or teenage literature. (Maybe, I should start to though as there are good stories aimed at the under 16’s out there). I thought from reading the forward, that this novel would be aimed at an only adult audience, but it’s actually aimed at teenagers whilst including adults. This really does show in the way it’s written because, there is a simplified feel to the tone of the vocabulary. The other problem I had with this is the Carrol-isms that appear. I understand that Beddor wanted to connect with Carrol’s writing. It does work because of the setting and it is the narrative voice’s language. However, in places I didn’t think it was necessary and it stalled the flow of the narrative because it wasn’t a constant feature in the vocabulary. Prepares, that’s just how I feel about it and other people didn’t have a problem with it.


That happens to be my only criticism about this novel, because the rest is great. The story is about Alice Liddell telling Rev. Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carrol) about her true identity as Princess Alyss Heart Of Wonderland. Even though she has told this story to countless others, they’ve not believed her and dismissed her words as make believe. In Dodgson she is led to understand that she has found a believer at last, however and as the prologue tells us, this isn’t the case and Dodgson has written her story completely differently. We then get Alyss’ story, which leads into the plot of the novel. Alyss is celebrating her birthday, which gets interrupted by an attack from her Aunt Redd. Alyss escapes, but ends up in the Pool of Tears portal and arrives in 1800’s England. From there she tries to get back to Wonderland, but as time passes she starts to believe that she made it all up. However, she does make it back to Wonderland with the help of her friends, but it’s no longer the place she left behind. Under her evil aunt everything has changed and Alyss must fight to claim back her Queendom.


At the heart of the novel is the traditional good vs evil theme and this is the main plot. The good side is The White Imagination and the evil side is The Black Imagination. Sub plots and other themes help to make this novel stand out. One of the sub-plots is having a self-believe in the power of your imagination. This is the key to Alyss succeeding her goals in the novel and she is often questioning this power. The theme loyalty is an underlying presence throughout, because Alyss’ followers try to stay true to her and keep the belief in White Imagination. War is a strong theme in the novel, because it grips Wonderland hard and brings a lot of unrest. Family and friends is an important theme, because most of the characters loss family and friends during the first half of the book and then forge new ones in the second half.


I really enjoyed the story because it was a mix of reality and fantasy. Like Alyss, I was left question what was real and what wasn’t. The narrative is split between Alyss and her friends points of views. This means that when Alyss returns to Wonderland, the reader already knows what has happened and this makes the switch back more easy. The narrative also has a good pace to it and I really liked the fighting scenes, which do appear often and are well written. There is also enough detailed description for elements to be pictured easily, but it still allows use of your imagination. I also found some lines very quotable and they stuck in my head, such as this one;


‘It’s unconscious. To will something into being, the willing of it must be so deep down that no self-doubt is possible. The imaginative power itself must be given, a thing already proven that cannot be disbelieved.’2  


The characters are very different, if not completely, from Carrol’s story. Alyss does start off as a seven year old girl and she then grows into a young woman throughout the book. She is a strong willed character, who wants to do the right thing and stand up for her beliefs. She works well as the heroine, because she has to discover her true identity and embrace it. That’s something readers can connect with. I hope in the next book she does a little more fighting, as I would have liked to have seen her doing that more then taking a back seat or being rescued from it.


Though Carrol hardly appears, I feel that his character was spot on. For some reason, I can just imagine him actually being like that and it was nice for Beddor to deeper the connections too. In a way Carrol is actually the reader of the novel, because Alyss is the narrative voice which tells him the story. It also shows the nature of writers and how they change and adopt things to suit their needs!


Dodge is Alyss friend and also love interest. I liked his character because after the major turning point in the story, he dramatic changes and this feels very realist. He becomes fixated on revenge and very little else. It might show that he is one track minded, but for the nature of his character this works. He’s also more stable then Alyss as he trusts in himself to reach his goals, whilst she is often doubting her abilities.


The Mad Hatter has always been my favourite character and then tea party scene is my favourite part of the book. Beddor has given the Mad Hatter and the March Hare very important roles as the Hatter is in charge of royal security as it were and the Hare is Alyss’ tutor and explain-er for the readers. Hatter reminds me of a steampunk styled character has he is full of hidden weapons. Hare does come off a bit boring, but his role as a tutor suits this. These characters are good supporting ones and help to move the plot along.


Overall, I really enjoyed The Looking Glass Wars as it wasn’t what I expected. It felt like a refreshing read, even though in some ways it was re-telling the good vs evil story. The plot of the story is really good and it does allow readers to question the power of their imaginations. The characters are well written and I enjoyed their development. I’m so looking forward to reading the next two!




Quotes from:


1. Beddor Frank, The Looking Glass Wars (London, Egmont Books, 2005) pg. 0

2. As Above. pg. 274



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The Secret Garden review – ‘Might I have a bit of earth?’

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett has to be one of the most memorable classics of childrens’ literature. For me it is also one of my guilty pleasures in books and movies. I can’t recall how old I was when I first read the book and saw the 1993 movie of it. (For that I must have been more then 6. So I would say about 10 or 12 years old.) I fell in love with the story straight away. I think the same reasons why I liked it so much back then are still the same reasons why I am into it today.

I recently finished reading it on my Kindle and that’s why I am keen to write about now. At one point I owned a copy of the above edition. (Knowing me I’ve still got it somewhere!) I think it did become very tried out due to me re-reading it so many times though! And I really think that of all the books and stories in general that I often return to, The Secret Garden is high up on the list. So, why is a lover of horror, supernatural and vampire stories so attracted to a children’s book? Well, some would say there are supernatural elements in it, but its the story of finding the garden, the setting, the development of the characters, the dialogue used and the magic of nature that attracts me.

Burnett was an English-American playwright and author. She was born 24th November 1849 in Cheetham, near Manchester and is best known for her children’s stories. She moved to America in 1852 aged 19 and begin writing and publishing stories in magazines. During the 1880s she travelled to England frequently and in 1890s moved to Great Maytham Hall in Kent. It was here, during her return some years later, that she had the idea for The Secret Garden due to her love for gardening and the series of walled and rose gardens at the Hall. Most of the writing happened during a visit to Buile Hill Park in Salford. It was published in serial format in The American Magazine 1910 and then published in 1911 as a book. She moved back to the USA in 1907 and settled in Long Island where she died on 29th October 1924. The Secret Garden was the 5th to last book she wrote.

Of course, living in England I should be familiar with the places that Burnett is connected to. I first thought that she had got the idea, written and set the novel close to me, but on researching this I found out that the places were further away then I had realised. Kent is far away from me as it’s down near London, but Buile Hill Park in Salford is about 40 minutes and the Yorkshire dales might be two hours away, but somehow they feel a lot closer!

I really like the book cover of my edition because it fits with the title and the robin looks so attractive. I’ve always had a love of nature and maybe it was seeing this as a child that started my love for robins? Your eye is also drawn to the doorway behind the bird, which must be the entrance to the garden. Even the title gets you thinking and interested to find out more. Where is this secret garden? What’s in it? Who finds it? What’s it’s history? And it’s because you need to have those questions answered that you pick it up.

The story starts in India and the introduction to the main character 10 year old Mary Lennox. She is selfish, self-absorbed, sour, a loner, angry, rude, use to getting her own way and unloved. She doesn’t know how to respect, give care, be compassionate and show love to others. Everything revolves around her and she believes herself to be at the centre of the universe around her. Her British, wealthy parents don’t want her, so she has been raised by servants, who have been told to keep her quiet and happy, which is the reason behind her behaviour. When a cholera epidemic hits and kills nearly all the household, Mary is rescued and sent to live with her only relative, her uncle Archibald Craven in Yorkshire, England.

His house Misselthwaite Manor is set on Missle Moor far from anywhere else. She crosses the moor at night and so doesn’t view them until the morning. The name of the moor is fictional, but Thwaite is an actual village in the Dales and is probably the setting of the Manor. The moor is first described by Medlock- Craven’s house keeper, who goes to collect Mary and bring her to the Manor;

‘Its just miles and miles and miles of wild land that nothing grows on but heather and gorse and broom, and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep….It’s a wild dreary enough place to my mind, though there’s plenty that likes it.’

I prefer Matha’s – Medlock’s maid who also becomes Mary’s- describtion of the moor a few pages later;

‘I just love it. It’s none bare. Its’ covered wi’ growin’ thing as smell sweet. It’s fair lovely in spring an’ summer when th’ gorse an’ broom an’ heather’s in flower. It smells o’ honey an’ there’s such a lot o’ fresh air-an’ th’ sky looks so high an’ th’ bees an’ skylarks making such a nice noise hummin’ an’ singin’.

Moors have always had the supernatural connected to them in some way, but they also have the magic of nature too. I find them interesting and beautiful places. The moors aren’t the actual setting of the story though they are connect. There is symbolism between the moor and the characters though. For example, the cold, bleakness, un-interesting nature of the moors in winter is symbolic of Medlock’s and Craven’s attitudes towards Mary. The changes between the winter and spring season could be said to be symbolic of the changes in Mary and her cousin Collin. As like the plants starting to become active, the children’s minds and bodies do as well. My favourite symbolism has to be between the moor and the character Dickon, (he is Matha’s younger brother) because he represents the wild spirit of the moor and nature.

The description of Misselthwaite Manor is minimal, but you get the impression that this massive house reflects the look of the moor. It is a dark, gloomy, empty and a half abandoned place. I guess some what spooky and mysterious would also fit also and during Mary’s secret wanderings of the house the supernatural element is touch upon. Nothing else comes of this, though you do learn that Mary has no fear of things. The house could symbolise the lack of love and the loneliness that Mary has come accustomed too. Since there is nothing for Mary to do inside and the fact that Medlock doesn’t want her poking around, she is sent outside to ‘play’ by Matha. However, because of her up bringing, she doesn’t know how to play and finds the Manor’s gardens boring.

Mary is told the tale of the secret garden and the reader receives some answers to the questions raised at the beginning. The garden was created by Mrs Craven, who loved roses, but she fell off a swing/ tree Branch and was injured. She died and Mr Craven couldn’t get over her death, so he had the garden closed forever and forbid anyone to enter it. This is also the reason why he can’t stand to spent the spring and summer months at the manor, as these seasons remind him of his wife. The loss of a Lady at the manor can be seen in the state of the place as well. Mrs Craven wouldn’t have let the place get so dull and gloomy! This does stir something in Mary and she becomes interested in finding the garden.

Thus she is led to talking to an old gardener, Ben Weatherstaff and his friendly robin. At first Mary appears her normal self, but as she starts talking to the robin and putting human qualities onto the bird, she starts to become a different child. In away, Weatherstaff takes the role of grandfather like figure to Mary. He is wise and she does learn things from him. However, he is also a loner and does become bitter and anger later on. As for the robin, he has a very important role to play in the novel. He leads Mary to the garden because it is his home and he also helps her find the key. I love the character of the robin, because he is well written and acts just like a cheeky, friendly robin would do! He symbolises freedom as all birds do in novels, but it is also because he can enter the secret garden when no one else can. He becomes Mary’s first friend and does turn the novel around at this point.

So, Mary gets into the garden, but because she doesn’t know anything about plants and believes the garden is dead. There’s no one around to ask or help her, that is until my favourite character, Dickon, appears. I think its his animal charmer nature and the fact he has the spirit of the moor inside of him, that makes me like him so. He shows Mary that the garden isn’t dead and they begin to tidy it up and plant new flowers. One thing that I do love at this point is that they decided to let the garden stay wild and not try to re-tame it and make it fancy as it once most have been. You also get to meet all of Dickon’s animal friends, who each have their own story about how he found them. Many were baby animals that he saved and we see this with the newly born lamb that appears later on. These animals have developed a bond with him and see him as one of them. I also like how he can talk to the robin, because Dickon brings a voice to him to confirm his friendship with Mary.

Just as the garden has given up it’s secret, the house does too and one night, Mary finally follows the crying noises she has been hearing and discovers her cousin, Collin. She is already changing into a much more caring and less selfish girl. The fresh air and having the garden to look after have given her mind and body fuel that wasn’t there before. It is interesting when she meets Collin for a number of reasons;

Firstly, because the reader can see that Mary is mirrored in Collin. He is just like her in manner and nature, but he is also mentally unstable due to his depression, his belief of dying and getting a hunch back like his father. Secondly, because they didn’t know about each other. Thirdly, there is a sense that Mary will be the salvation of him and help change him. Mary tells him about the garden and he becomes interested in finding it. However, she is worried he won’t be able to keep it a secret and so doesn’t let him into the fact that she’s all ready been inside. Fourthly, we learn more about Mrs and Mr Craven through him. Mrs Craven died soon after having Collin, who was born too early and it is hinted at that her fall in the garden might have had something to do with this. Collin hates her for dying and doesn’t like the portrait of her that hangs opposite his bed. Also, he has no relationship with his father because Collin is blamed for his mother’s death and looks too much like her.

There are only three parts in the novel where we get to meet Craven. The first is when Mary goes to him and asked for her bit of earth. Like Medlock, he seems dis-interested in her and lost in his own affairs. He hasn’t got the time to deal with her and like his own son, doesn’t want anything to do with her. He does agree to give Mary her garden though and her worries about stealing it are put to an end. This also shows how her character is developing, because before she would have just taken the garden she believed it was her right to do so. Giving the garden to Mary doesn’t allow Craven to escape his past though and he leaves the manor to travel around the world.

All the children build a friendship and Mary tells Collin about the garden. When he visits the place, his mind becomes awakened and he realises that he is not as ill as he has been led to believe. He also starts to believe in magic and uses it to explain things. These are mostly connect with Nature and God because it is suggested when Dickon’s mother appears. Collin starts to appear like a healthy boy again, though he decides to keep it a secret from the adults as he wants to surprise his father. This soon does happen as his father has a strange dream about his wife calling to him from the garden. For some reason, his mind has been taking in the countryside scenery of the country he is currently in and he begins to feel more alive. He arrives home and on trying to see his son is direct to the garden. He is shocked when Collins runs into him just outside the walk way to the secret garden and he realises how wrong he was about his son.

There are lots of themes in this novel, the main ones are; nature, family, growth, change, secrets and magic. I don’t think there is much of a reason for me to go into them because I’ve touched upon them in talking about the characters and the plot.The writing is simple and aimed at children, however given its publishing date, the language is old fashioned. This doesn’t effect the overall reading experience and for me it just adds to the setting of the story. I love the Yorkshire dialogue that is used throughout because it creates a realistic feel to the characters and their words. In some places this can be hard to understand though, but most of the time the speech is then explained. I think it because even more enjoyable when Mary and Collin start to speak it because you can see a real change in their attitude towards other people.

Overall, there are many reasons why I love The Secret Garden. I can easily see why it is a classic children’s book and I hope this continues. The story brings nature to life in a different way, through the eyes of children looking upon it for the first time, which is where the magic comes in. It is wonderfully written and very easy to talk about as well!

The movie

The other thing that really got me loving the secret garden was the 1993 movie adaption of the novel. Okay, so maybe its not the best movie, but it does get the themes and points across well. You can sit down and just watch it as a family. The children actors are quite good and emotions come off strongly. Of course it is different from the novel in places, but this doesn’t effect the plot that much. There isn’t as much Yorkshire dialect in it as I wise there had been, but I guess there was a worry that some of the characters might not have been understand! There are some wonderful scenes of the moor and gardens coming to life which adds to the magical tone of the movie. I think I like it because it is very enjoyable and you can loose yourself in the joys of creation.

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