As a child I was in love with the film The Secret Garden and have lost count of the number of times that I’ve watched it. However, it was not until I was about twelve years old that I discovered that the film is an adaptation from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel of the same name. As soon as I found out, I was straight over to the library to check out the book and see if it was as good as the film. Immediately it was obvious that ‘good’ was an understatement. Although I still had a soft spot for the film adaptation, it was clear that the novel far surpassed it. One of the main things that I noticed was missing from the film is all the food. When Mary arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, she is described as “the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, tin light hair and a sour expression” (13). Her disagreeable expression and demeanor are directly linked to her thinness, suggesting that her temper and unhappiness might be eased through food. Food aids Mary’s recovery from her bad moods and selfishness as she is constantly fed an array of treats by the Sowerbys in order to fatten her up: crumpets, muffins, porridge, hot milk. Although a happy child, I was naturally rather skinny and had a yellowy complexion. Having read The Secret Garden, I decided that I must therefore be unhealthy like Mary is at the beginning of the novel. I began to stuff myself with cakes and bready foods in an attempt to fatten myself up and whenever we went to visit our family up in Yorkshire I’d spend my days roaming the countryside in an attempt to achieve that rosey glow that Mary develops! My efforts were in vain and I finally gave up when my mother sat me down and reminded me that I was skinny because both her and my father had been when they were younger, and that I have a yellowish complexion due to my Chinese, Iranian and Portuguese mixed blood! As much as I had enjoyed gorging myself on hot, buttered crumpets and thick slices of Victoria Sponge cake, I decided to return to a slightly healthier diet and embrace my natural appearance!
Burnett, Frances, Hodgson. The Secret Garden. London: Kingfisher, 2005.