Sunday, May 31, 2015
What I'm Reading in 2015, May: The Secret Garden and The Gathering Place
First up is...
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I had gotten this book free from our local school on the last day of school and thought I'd be able to read it to my daughter as a summer reading project. Never having read the book myself, and having only seen about 2 minutes total of the movie version of the book in my time, I was intrigued with the premise of the story and really looked forward to reading it to my daughter.
The premise of the book, in case you are unfamiliar with it (as I was) is a girl by the name of Mary loses her entire family to typhus in India and moves in with her uncle back in England. Her uncle lives on a lonely moor and doesn't know what to do with an orphaned child that looked ill and thin and so he basically let the servants take care of her. Since she had nothing to do in the way of toys, the girl who was supposed to watch over her basically tells her to start playing outside or she was going to go batty. So, Mary heeds her advice and starts playing outside.
In the course of starting to gain some health from the fresh air, Mary learns of a garden that had been locked for 10 years, since the death of her uncle's wife. Mary, never being denied much of anything, decides she has to look for the garden and so she looks with the help of a robin who has befriended her.
She finally finds the garden and gains access, but doesn't know much about gardening beyond instincts, so she tries the best she can to get the garden growing again. And then she meets Dickon, her servant Martha's brother. Dickon is a boy who loves nature and all things animal and plant, so he knows immediately how to help her bring the garden back to life.
Things are starting to take off in the garden when Mary then learns another secret of the estate. Her invalid cousin, Colin. Colin's story is somewhat complicated, but basically what it boiled down to is that nothing is physically wrong with Colin, but he'd been told something was wrong with him for so long that he'd started to believe it. Mary befriends Colin and then finally lets Colin in on the secret of the garden and Colin joins the rag tag group in the garden.
Finally, one day the head gardener peaks over the wall and sees the children in the garden and so Ben Weatherstaff joins the group.
Overall, I found the book entertaining, although I think it might offend some modern sensibilities in people when they read about young children running around outside all day, rain or shine, without adult supervision or even an adult that really cares much. There's even a part of the book when Mary's uncle comes back to the estate and admits to her that he had forgotten all about her.
My biggest problem with reading the book to my daughter was the Yorkshire accents the characters speak in. I was KINDA able to do a facsimile of a Yorkshire accent (I THINK), but my daughter just got confused repeatedly about what the characters were saying and would get frustrated with the story very quickly. So, we finally called it quits on the book until she is a bit older.
I will keep the book around, though, for when she gets older as I do think she'll enjoy the book as she already has an interest in gardening and growing things. I think she'll enjoy the book a lot when the language "barrier" isn't so frustrating to her.
Next up on my reading list this month was...
The Gatherhing Place by Graham Kerr
Okay, confession time. I LOVE Graham Kerr. I've loved him since he was "The Galloping Gourmet" making me laugh on weekends when my dad and I would watch his reruns. I now avidly watch episodes of his shows on You Tube and I own no less than five Graham Kerr cookbooks (and you can actually get a look at the Galloping Gourmet kitchen scale I own as it's part of my blog banner).
So, when I saw "The Gathering Place" I HAD to add it to my collection. And I'm so happy I did.
This is a cookbook that is half cookbook and half storybook, but the storybook end of the book will take you on a wonderful mental vacation around the world. The book is all about Graham Kerr and his wife as they travel all over the world and the dishes that he made inspired by those places.
The nicest part of the book, for me, is the point of the book. Which is he wanted to write a book about cuisine from different parts of the world so that you could have interesting meals to cook for family and friends when they'd come over for dinner and eat at your family table, or gathering place. He gives ideas for different ways to do get togethers with friends and family at the beginning of the book. And then throughout the book he gives you wonderfully vivid recollections of his travels to the point that you really can picture that you are there, which is a double bonus for someone like me who has never traveled outside of her home country.
I have to say that the recipes, well, they're a bit rich for my blood on the ingredients end of things (as in cost), but I did find a lot of inspiration to make some of my own special meals for my family using some ideas I gleaned from his travels.
And the icing on the cake, for me, was when I opened my used book to find this...
So, final opinions? "The Secret Garden" is a classic, so I'm not sure how much I can really add to that, other than it might be confusing for you to read to young children, especially if you can't do a Yorkshire accent worth a darn, but it is worth having on your shelf, especially if you are trying to inspire your kids to play outside more or get them more of an interest in gardening.
And "The Gathering Place" was, as usual with a Graham Kerr book, vastly entertaining to read. Graham Kerr's writing style is much like his TV personality; very engaging, funny and witty.
So, really, I can't recommend his books enough, period, but this is yet another one I was happy to add to my cookbook collection.