The Secret Garden

Sunday, 25 October 2009

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

secret garden

The piano started again. This time it was not a student but confidant, easy playing. It was Debussy's La Cathedrale Engloutie, The Submerged Cathedral. Through the window came those slow notes, and into this Spanish room the Breton myth of the drowned city, the church bells and the monks chanting from beneath the sea, and in her mind they were Gaudi's cathedral spires, in a slow, centennial rising from the water in apparition.

-Charlotte Wood, The Submerged Cathedral, p. 244.

I've been thinking a lot about gardens lately after reading The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood and watching The Secret Garden. The garden in both these narratives has a central symbolic function, but the more I read critical material about this symbolism, the more unsatisfied I am. In particular, there's always the much quoted symbolism of the Garden of Eden. I feel as if there's something more to say.

What has always appealed to me about The Secret Garden is the idea of the secret, as much, or perhaps even more so, than the garden itself. This idea of a buried secret as a symbolism for love is also evident in Wood's novel. The idea that love is like an echo of a garden that is buried beneath the sea, like Debussy's Submerged Cathedral. It's no wonder that the book left me haunted. I tend to retain memorable books in my memory by translating them into fragmentary images, and the image of a submerged garden is still present in my mind.

And really, that's how I associate the intimacy of love: as a secret, like hiding beneath the covers when it's cold. Has anyone read The Submerged Cathedral or seen The Secret Garden? If so, I'd love to know what you think.


Des said...

I think the Secret Garden is an outstanding film, it's frustrating that the lead actress Kate Maberly hasn't been given better acting roles. If she could interpret that character at such young age, then I wonder how she would interpret Elizabeth Bennet. It's a shame. And now that I think about why didn't they let Agnieszka Holland direct Harry Potter? Can you imagine the layers and texture she would have added to that children's story? Again, it's a shame.

Make it Easy said...

me and my sister remember watching this when we were younger. so we rented it again and watched it through adult eyes. it was still eerie and pretty as we remembered it.

danica said...

i've wanted to see the secret garden ever since windy days posted a collection of film stills, but i haven't gotten around to watching it. it looks quite delightful.

i've only heard bad things about the submerged cathedral from people teaching in the romance unit, so i've never read it...i assumed that it was badly written, but that passage you've quoted is lovely.

The Drifter and the Gypsy said...

Hi Hila!

Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog, your blog is so pretty as well!

Stop by The Drifter and the Gypsy again to say hello and don't forget to follow my blog as well!

Hope all is well dear,

bronwyn said...

The Secret Garden was my favorite book when I was a girl. I spent hours upon hours day dreaming of my own secret garden. I saw the film for the first time only a few months ago. It was as magical as I remember the book to be.

Mary-Laure said...

I have to confess that I've never heard of The submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood...
would you recommend it?

Sundari said...

I haven't read either of these books, but am familiar-ish with Secret Garden. I bought the puffin edition earlier this year and plan to read it. I think it's every little girls dream to have a little secret like that, and I guess that carries through to womanhood. I think the way you describe Debussy's 'Submerged Cathedral' is beautiful. Your reviews and posts have been opening my eyes, thank you.

Hila said...

Des: yes, well unfortunately, most mainstream cinema likes to make things simple for the audience, assuming that we are all "simple". It is rather annoying, but there are little gems out there nonetheless.

make it easy: it is a rather pretty film, I love the house they filmed it in.

Danica: I think you'd like the film, it's a rainy-day sort of film :)

I'm surprised so many people complained about the submerged cathedral, especially people teaching it. I thought it was quite good. Not as good as In the Skin of a Lion, but very few people can write like him. It's not badly written - it just depends on whether you like poetic narrative rather than outright realism. Maybe people didn't like it because it quite heavily invests in cliches and the tropes of romance, but I don't think it does so in an unselfconscious manner, and it is after all a text in a "romance" unit! I suspect many people don't like teaching it mainly because the students don't quite know what to do with it, it's a very slippery text, so that does make it hard to teach, especially to first-year students. But still, I would recommend reading it, it is as you say, quite lovely.

Micaela: it's my pleasure :)

Bronwyn: I also dreamt of my own little garden after reading the book.

Mary-Laure: yep, I would definitely recommend reading the submerged cathedral, it's one of the better novels I've read lately.

Sundari: thank you, that's very kind of you to say. I hope you have fun in Melbourne!

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

I thoroughly agree with you. There are so many layers to the concept of the secret garden. In the Burnett book, one of those layers also has to do with the sickly little boy Colin, for whom the garden needs to flourish inside his mind before he himself can flourish as a person. Thanks for this beautiful post.

Michelle said...

this film meant so much to me when I was in grade school. so beautiful.

Greer said...

lovely words

Hila said...

Thanks for your lovely comments everyone :)

Linda said...

oh, when i was young i used to pretend that i had a secret garden inside my real garden that only i could see. i would spend hours tending the flowers and just laying in the grass looking up at the sun. everytime i read the book now i always go back to those moments in my head.

Hila said...

Those moments in your own mind are the best, I think I must have spent half of my childhood in daydreams :)

Lenneke said...

this movie is on my wishlist for a while now but I am not able to find it anywhere in Holland! Now I even want to see it more!

Really like your blog, the images, the movies you discribe!

Hila said...

Thank you!

Fine Little Day said...

An outstanding movie.

Hila said...

I agree!