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I was walking along a Nairobi street earlier this week and something caught my eye.
At the top of a pile of books displayed by a street vendor was a copy of the classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
I was so excited to see the book, I actually grabbed it from the pile and hugged it. Then I saw the street vendor give me an inquisitive look. Afraid he would hike the price if I told him what a precious find it was, I quickly handed him a note and bolted.
I read the book when I was younger and I found such a connection with it. It revolves around the life of a sickly and unloved 10-year-old girl named Mary Lennox. A cholera outbreak kills her parents and she is sent from India where she grew up, to Yorkshire in England to live with a wealthy uncle she had never met.
Anyway, my favourite part of the book is when Mary declares “I am Mary Lennox!”
You see, Mary was raised by her wealthy parents’ servants who spoiled her by allowing her to do anything she wanted. Because of that, she had become quite aggressive and self-centred.
Burnett, the author of the book, does not shy away from making us dislike Mary. Her harsh descriptions of Mary at first seem strange but as you get into the book, you realise why she had to paint her protagonist in such a bad light. To depict change.
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And change she did when she met a little boy named Colin who turned out to be her cousin. In the end, the two become inseparable and alas! Mary learns to love anyone other than herself.
Perhaps this is why I love the book so much – because of its theme of rejuvenation (and hence the garden that springs back to life).
What better thing is there than a chance to start life afresh?
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