Classics Retold is a project created by Alison @ The Cheap Reader and hosted by a number of bloggers. This project encompasses reviews of some original classics, as well as their adaptations, retellings, and/or sequels. Click here for more details. The master post for Children’s Classic can also be found here.
Before I chose The Secret Garden as my classic, I tried to find if there were enough sequels or retellings of it that were written and published. I found a few sequels by different authors, but the one that attracted me the most and seemingly written closely to the classic was The Forgotten Room. I then bought a book at The Book Depository.
Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
‘The Secret Garden’, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in 1911, has been beloved by generations. Made into a stage play and numerous movies, this enchanting story remains a popular classic today.
‘The Forgotten Room’ begins a few months after the original concludes, continuing the stories of Mary, Colin, Dickon and the rest of the beloved characters from ‘The Secret Garden.’ This is the story of what happens next to the people of Misselthwaite Manor.
Mary finds another secret, learns more about herself her friends, gets a tutor, nearly succumbs to her parents’ fate, and faces a crucial decision or two. Written with the style and heart of the original.
When I got my hands on the paperback version of the book, I was surprised to notice it was printed differently from all the books I have. I immediately thought it could be a self-published work as evident in the font type and absence of page numbers. On the other hand, who cares? What matters is the content of the story, right?
The Secret Garden’s story continues in Stacie Morrell’s version. Familiar characters still play their parts in this book, but a newcomer will soon change everything. The setting of the story remains the same, taking place at Misselthwaite Manor. However, what sets this apart from the original classic is that while the classic focuses on the garden, The Forgotten Room reveals a specific room in the manor yet unfamiliar to the readers.
It’s the same as the garden that leads Mary to discover the room. Her curiosity to know as much as she can pushes her to snoop around. The room becomes her secret room, a place where she can call her own. And there, she finds comfort and attempts to know the story behind the room’s neglection.
I like how Stacie Morrell also explores the story centering a bit on parenthood and family. As mentioned in the classic, Uncle Craven soon decides that it’s already a good time to hire a governess to tutor Mary and Colin. This information is something new to Mary and Colin, hence their excitement and eagerness to meet their visitor. Along the way, after being introduced to their new governess, Miss Jane Edmonds, and spending time with her, Mary and Colin begin to feel things unusual to them. These feelings have caught them off guard due to the lack of maternal influence in their lives. Since then, they’ve sought Miss Edmond’s attention, unconsciously yearning for a maternal bond.
Despite having different authors, reading The Forgotten Room still feels like reading The Secret Garden. Stacie Morrell is able to capture the writing style of Frances Hodgson Burnett and added her own style to craft a possible phenomenon after the whole timeframe period of the classic. The characteristics of the characters are distinguishable and readers could see how Mary and Colin are both still children and yet slowly growing mature in terms of their choices and decisions. I especially love the part where the author considers Mary and Dickon’s friendship to grow into something more. The budding attraction they’ve shown to each other is both sweet and adorable. Moreover, readers could witness the softer side of Mrs. Medlock!
The downside of this book is that I feel the story lacks some things. Throughout the process of reading it, there are some questions that surfaced but are left unanswered. Character-building and story-building are not developed in depth as I hoped they would be. I also expected that the forgotten room would be the core of the story, but somehow, the topic is just brushed through. Nevertheless, I still enjoy reading it. The Forgotten Room is a short and easy read and is surely catered to younger readers.