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From My Bookshelf: Silent, Secret, Bloom

This From My Bookshelf post is inspired by the spring equinox; I’ve chosen the following books because of their subject matter, covers, titles, and/or a combination of all three. This post features one of the few nonfiction titles living on my shelves, as well as an old favorite, and a childhood book: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Bloomability by Sharon Creech.

Silent Spring Rachel Carson

From the back cover: “Rarely does a single book alter the course of history, but Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did exactly that. the outcry that followed its publication in 1962 forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.”

The very first chapter of this book is titled “A Fable for Tomorrow,” and Rachel Carson says at the end of this short chapter that not one town has experienced the calamities she described, but many places have experienced at least one of them. I want to say that this book is required reading, but what I really want to say is that the message and purpose within are required of humans to understand and carry out. Great environmental strides have been made since Silent Spring was published, but unfortunately many people holding powerful positions and influenced by greed are still on their same bullsh*t.

From page 3: “A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.”

The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett

From the back cover: “Though Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote more than forty books, none remains so popular as her miraculous and magical masterpiece, The Secret Garden. Has any story ever dared to begin by calling its heroine ‘the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen’ and, just a few sentences later, ‘as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived’? Mary Lennox is the ‘little pig,’ sent to Misselthwaite Manor, on teh Yorkshire moors, to live with her uncle after her parents die of cholera. There she discovers her sickly cousin Colin, who is equally obnoxious and imperious. Both love no one because they have never been loved. They are the book’s spiritual secret gardens, needing only the right kind of care to bloom into lovely children.”

A recent read of this classic allowed me to make a personal decision in relation to the question “is humankind born inherently good or inherently evil?” I believe that we are all born inherently good, but in order to maintain that goodness we must work for it. It is easy to become cold-hearted, hate-filled, and uncaring. It is easy to give in to a bad environment and negative events, and blindly follow what road is laid out in front of you, and some people are not given the chance or chances to come out of that darkness. I’ve been thinking about this more and more within the past year, and I also believe that if you are able to maintain your goodness, it is vital that you work to bring it out of someone who may not be able to do it for themselves.

From page 168: “Mary had thought he meant something about Magic. She was a great believer in Magic. Secretly she quite believed that Dickon worked Magic, of course good Magic, on everything near him and that was why people liked him so much and wild creatures knew he was their friend. She wondered, indeed, if it were not possible that his gift had brought the robin just at the right moment when Colin asked that dangerous question. She felt that his Magic was working all the afternoon and making Colin look like an entirely different boy. It did not seem possible that he could be the crazy creature who had screamed and beaten and bitten his pillow. Even his ivory whiteness seemed to change. The faint glow of color which had shown on his face and neck and hands when he first got inside the garden really never quite died away. He looked as if he were made of flesh instead of ivory and wax.”

Bloomability Sharon Creech

From the back cover: “Kidnapped! The kidnappers are actually her Aunt Sandy and Uncle Max, but that doesn’t matter to Domenica Santolina Doone, better known as Dinnie. She feels as if she’s being taken out of the country against her will. Certainly, no one asked her opinion. Dinnie is used to change – with her family constantly moving from town to town and state to state while her father searches for one new ‘opportunity’ after another. But when her aunt and uncle whisk her away to an international school in Lugano, Switzerland, Dinnie feels that this might be one ‘opportunity’ that isn’t right for her…will it just be easier to close herself off – just survive – and never realize all the ‘bloomabilities’ that are possible?”

Before revisiting some of the pages of this Sharon Creech book, I didn’t quite remember the details off the top of my head, like I remember details from Walk Two Moons. However, what I remember now is how I would have loved to be whisked away to a school in Switzerland and taken from my ordinary (and what I considered dull) life, and that I didn’t quite yet know how it felt to fear for the loss of those close to me. It’s certainly true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone; life changes and things we cannot control (good and bad) happen continuously. What’s best to cling to during those uncontrollable events and how to adapt to changes is not always clear, and neither is how we’re going to perceive ourselves after the fact. Are you expecting a “but”? I was expecting to write a “but” statement, however (ha ha) I think what follows the “but” is individual, and cannot accurately be generalized.

From page 219-220: “While I was standing there staring at the spot where the rescuers were now digging, and while all my thoughts were on Guthrie, into my mind came an image of my parents, and then one of Crick and Stella and the baby. They didn’t know I was here, they didn’t know about Guthrie and Lila, they didn’t know about avalanches. And then I got very frightened. If they didn’t know about this, then I didn’t know what was happening with them. What if one of them was in danger and I didn’t even know it? It seemed, right then, that there was danger all around, and I was afraid for everyone I knew. Oddly, though, the only person I wasn’t afraid for was myself.”


  • thebookwormdrinketh

    I love the thoughts you took from your re-read of “the secret garden” …sometimes it’s hard to remember that humanity is born inherently good… looking at what most of them become it can be very difficult not to become jaded…

  • Gary

    Fascinating choices Kelsey. It’s been a long while since I read The Secret Garden, but as the other commenter said, I enjoyed your thoughts on the re-read. I’m currently tripping through a TBR pile that crosses more genres than I’ve ever tried in the past. I’ve just finished The Roanoke Girls and that was an unexpected good read. Speaking of which, I must go and leave a review there!

  • Anindya

    Loved your reviews of the books you mentioned. Haven’t read any of these, but will surely try to get them to read after your review…..thanks.

  • Phil Taylor

    Wow! I feel stupid for never having heard of Silent Spring and it’s impact. Thanks for making me a little smarter. I suppose to be a lot smarter, I’d have to read the book.

  • Losing the Plot

    It odd, I’m very familiar with silent spring, i’ve referred to it in essays, it has affected my career in the environmental sector, but i’ve Never sat down and read it cover to cover. Probably should.

  • Claire Saul (PainPalsBlog)

    I read The SecretGarden as a child and again to my kids (classic alongside Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty, The Tapestry Room etc) but I haven’t read The Silent Spring for is on my book shelf so maybe I will look it out! I love new books (just finished The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse) but also think re reading classic favourites is my guilty pleasure!

    • Kelsey

      Yes, there’s just something about putting aside my more-recently-published TBR pile and returning to something comfortable yet still enlightening. 🙂

  • angelanoelauthor

    The words of Mary from the Secret Garden (though I read the book several times-albeit years ago) have a special magic of their own. Your reflection on the way we’re born, our natural inclinations, and yet the pull of evil entropy to begin to forgive ourselves the small transgressions that lead to bigger, badder behavior, is a thing we have to guard against. Children need the goodness stewarded in them, which can only be done (unless you’re the wonderful main character in Slumdog Millionaire) with the help of intentional adults. Books teach us so much. I love them so.

    • Kelsey

      I completely agree. The character Dickon is the absolute example of how class cannot buy manners or goodness – both Mary and Colin came from a higher class with less-than-doting parents (for different reasons) – it takes nurturing and attention (and work and time) to instill those good qualities.

  • actualconversationswithmyhusband

    Excellent recommendations—I love that you go back and re-read old books too. I’ve never understood people who can watch the same movie a dozen times but consider themselves “done” with a book because they read it once in high school. You were a different person then! It told you a different story!

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