After loaning The Secret Garden to my dear friend and reading enthusiast, Linda, I couldn’t resist the urge to dip into it when she returned it to me. I never read this classic as a kid, which makes my discovery of its pleasures all the more exciting. I adore this book and Frances Hodgson Burnett. What a writer!
Who can resist the charms of a storyteller who begins her tale with these words: “When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable child ever seen. It was true, too.”
When I first read these lines, I was hooked. Not just because I instantly wanted to know exactly why Mary was such a pill, but because of the authoritative, cut-to-the-chase voice of the narrator. When you read an opening like this, you know you’re in good hands: the hands of a reliable, insightful guide– someone you can trust to take you on a journey that promises to be enjoyable and full of surprises.
The confiding, even chatty tone that France employs is so confidently seductive! As readers, we feel that we’re being treated as more than insiders; we’re confidantes — and right away, this turns us into the author’s allies. Once this happens, we’re prepared to march into any thorny dilemma or disheartening circumstance she chooses to embroil us all in. Author, reader, characters: We’re all in the same proverbial boat trying to find the shore of satisfaction together.
What a delightful, endearing and energizing journey this kind of novel takes us on! As readers, we know that we, too, have a place in the world the author’s created for us — and an active role to play in that world. And because we know that we’re in good hands — the crafty, capable hands of a master who knows how to spin a yarn — we can just relax and enjoy the ride.
To create an atmosphere of confidence and trust — surely, this must be one of the most satisfying and challenging roles of the writer. Yet so often, it seems to be one that many authors seem hesitant, even unwilling, to embrace. So let’s not be afraid to take our readers by the hand. Let’s write dangerously!