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‘Beyond The Secret Garden’

‘Now you’ll be wondering what I thought of The Secret Garden,’ ^Philip Larkin wrote to Monica Jones on 24th June 1953,’ Well I thought it astonishingly good. I can’t imagine how I’ve never come across it before {…] If it has any message, it’s surely that – well, I can’t put it into in a sentence, but it’s that life is strong and joyful enough to push up & overturn the strongest and heaviest morbid fancies and fears: it calls on everyone to put aside distrusts and shrinking-back, and live to the utmost while life is for the having.’ Letters to Monica p. 98

That this classic children’s story by Frances Hodgson Burnett should evoke in Larkin such a profound sense of exultant joy is surely enough to evoke further curiosity as to why this particular book should have had such an effect on him (in a later letter to Monica he links it to Lady Chatterley).

Ann Thwaite, wife of Anthony Thwaite, the Society’s President, and friend of Larkin’s, first wrote her biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1974. This has now been rereleased in paperback ahead of a new film, starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters and directed by Marc Munden due to released in the UK in October 2020. As Ann says, ‘The film will look afresh at the book itself and Burnett’s extraordinary life.’Ann has also been commissioned to write an article in The New Statesman which will delve further into Larkin’s love of this book. Definitely not to be missed!

For a chance to win vintage copies of books written by Frances Hodgson Burnett from Ann’s extensive collection, members might like to try out her quiz.

Ann has also produced a list of discussion questions for bookclubs.

Beyond The Secret Garden is published by Duckworth

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