Skip to main content

A Bit Of Earth

Several weeks into lockdown, and everyone’s getting a little stir-crazy. Spaces to escape into seem even more precious, especially for those with children. I feel very privileged to have my small patch of a garden where we can potter about, sit, get some air or just get away from one another. 

And no wonder. The effects of the lockdown and the terrible human costs of this pandemic are taking their toll on our mental health, old and young alike. Which brings me to these three books that are well-loved in our house:

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Moondial, Helen Cresswell

Tom's Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce


Unlike most of us, who are spending more time at home with our families than we ever thought possible, the main character in each of these books has been sent away from the home they know and separated from their family in some way, whether it’s due to the deaths of parents from cholera (The Secret Garden), a mother in a coma (Moondial), or – aptly - a brother in quarantine (Tom’s Midnight Garden).

Although our situations are different on the surface, when we look deeper there are similarities. We all live in the fear of losing our loved ones, and we also feel a sense of a lack of control over what is happening.

So how do our characters cope?

Well. Each of these books is about a garden. And each of these gardens is a place where magical things happen; the children feel less alone here and they can tap into their own inner power or strength, at a time when they have no external control over the events in their lives. Similarly, for many of us without a garden, the space and natural environment in the local park is where we might go to escape the awful reality of the death tolls, of economic uncertainty, of the tyranny of waiting; for many families with children it is the thing holding their sanity together right now.

While for readers, books are the ultimate escape to other times and places, people also need physical spaces. I wonder why some would call for the closure of public green spaces, when we know that not everyone has access to a private garden of their own. After all, not everyone can ask, like Mary Lennox is able to ask her uncle, “Might I have a bit of earth?”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

50 Years of Bangladesh

 Today is the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh. Growing up, my sisters and I would hear stories from parents and relatives about the War of Independence of 1971. We would go to community events commemorating Bangladesh Independence Day, Victory Day, Language Martyrs Day, and listen to veterans and members of the community who lived through that period, talking about their experiences. As they stood in front of rows of nodding elders and bored schoolchildren, the pain and pride in their voices rumbled through the microphone in their hands and filled the small community hall, along with the aroma of biryani stacked in boxes at the back, waiting to be handed round later.     Although we often had mixed feelings about sitting through those three-hour programmes, I've begun to realise that those parents who dragged their children along to those events knew that one day there would be nobody left alive who had witnessed that history.     As second or third generation di

Why Helen Graham is the Best Brontë Heroine

This month was Anne Bront ë ’s 200 th birthday, so I couldn’t let it go without writing a post in honour of it.  Anne Bronte, Project Gutenberg I don't think I'm alone in thinking that Anne was the boldest of her sisters. Her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall certainly is the bravest in rebelling against social expectations of women, and Helen Graham is by far my favourite heroine. Here’s why: 1.  She’s an adult, independent woman who has lived a full(er) life in society. Rather than living in the margins of society, in a state of arrested development, like Jane, Lucy, Agnes or even Cathy who never wanted to leave the moors, Helen’s previous life means she seems more like a well-rounded person. This might have made her story all the more shocking to Victorian audiences, as Helen’s social standing combined with her radical ideas would have been more likely to influence other people than those of a governess. She can’t be dismissed as just a naïve or unrelia

Chatting with Kate Morrison, Author: A Book of Secrets

Something special on the blog today, readers: I'm thrilled to be chatting to Kate Morrison, author of stunning debut A Book of Secrets, as part of its Random Things Tour. Join us as we talk about historical research, women's independence and racism in Elizabethan England. "A Book of Secrets is the story of a woman named Susan Charlewood living in Elizabethan England. Born in what is now Ghana, Susan is enslaved by the Portuguese but later rescued by British sailors, who bring her to England. Once in England, she is raised in an English Cathoic household. When Susan comes of age, the family marry her off to an older Catholic man, John Charlewood. Charlewood runs a printing press and uses it to supply the Papist nobility with illegal Catholic texts and foment rebellion amongst the Catholic underclass. When Charlewood, Susan takes over the business and uses her new position to find out more about her origins.  A look at racial relationships at the beginning of the eve of the