So I sort of self-published a book

Hi, yes, I have a confession.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the incredibly on brand project that is a poetic retelling of The Secret Garden. I’ve sort of now self-published it and it’s available on Amazon here:

Here is the cover:-

The Story of A Girl cover by LH Johnson

Here’s the blurb: –

“A retelling of the iconic children’s classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911), Tell Me Of A Girl explores the story of Mary Lennox like never before.”

And here’s the opening three chapters:-


Tell me of a girl

This is the story of a girl
who lived defiantly until she was wrapped in leaves
and locked behind walls. Tell me of the life she lived,
how her unruliness shone,
and how her loss did not define her.

Tell me of a girl
who survived.

With one hand in the soil

The first thing Mary Lennox learnt of the world was this:
her mother was beautiful and she was not, and she learnt this before she learnt her own name and before she knew what names even were.

Sometimes her mother would come to her room and look at Mary as though they had never met, and on those occasions Mary would look back at her
and find herself lost for words.

She was scared of her mother but proud too;
proud of her beauty, and of the way that people would talk of her in hushed tones.

Sometimes she would not see her mother for days
until she came home with friends, and the noise arrived before they did.

On those days, the servants took Mary to the back of the house
filled her mouth with food to earn her silence,
and together they listened to her mother laugh
too long,
too loud,
and too much.

The darkness

One night, Mary’s mother came to her room
and lit a cigarette in the dark,
let the ash slide onto the floor,
and spoke about how she was a soldier in some great battle and if she had to,
she would fight alone and she would win despite everything
despite her.

Her voice was calm, but the red tip of the cigarette moved like a mosquito through the dark.

The next morning, she left for a party in the hills, and came home two days later
in the grey, thin, light of the dawn,
and as the sun rose, she smashed glass against the walls
and scored the sky with regret.

Mary screwed her eyes shut and lied sleep
as the doctors came to their house and spoke of cholera
for it was a word that, unlike the others, she did not yet understand,
and so it meant nothing to her when the engagements
were not attended; and when her mother did not rise.


The Secret Garden : Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret Garden is a glorious, wonderful book. For a book published over one hundred years ago (1910), I am surprised at how readable and how genuinely heartwarming it is. There’s a richness to this story that survives and thrives even with the elements of the text that are perhaps more dated than others and the other elements that are just a little wince-worthy.

I won’t excuse the Yorkshire-isms present in The Secret Garden, though I will acknowledge this is a strong pet peeve of mine. I have such difficulty with stories that write accents and speech in the local dialect, and yet I think that I even forgive this of the Secret Garden. It’s important to remember the time it was written and the context of when it was written and to realise that stylistic tics like this are, perhaps, intended to create a very different effect.

So if you do not know of The Secret Garden, what can I tell you of it? It’s the story of spoilt, grumpy Mary Lennox who is sent to England following the death of her parents in India. To Mary, England is a foreign world and she doesn’t understand one iota of it. To be sent from India, where she had an ayah and servants, to Misslethwaite Manor, the most Yorkshire of Yorkshire establishments, is one that would affect the most ‘normal’ of children but to Mary, it is a baffling and confusing fate. She doesn’t understand the language, doesn’t know what a ‘moor’ is, and doesn’t even know how to dress herself properly.

Misslethwaite Manor is a difficult and confused place, hiding secrets of it own. Mr Craven, the lord of the Manor, is mourning the death of his beloved wife and has closed up a part of the garden that she used. One night, Mary wakens to hear screaming and crying coming from a part of the house. Upon exploring, she discovers that she is – well, I won’t spoil the rest of it, but her discovery is one of the things that helps to bring her back to the world.

There are a thousand, thousand themes and layers to this madly brilliant book. It reminds me of a cake sometimes, one of those gargantuan multi-layered things you see in a patisserie, being held together by air and cream and the arcane arts of a patissier. There’s space inside it, and maybe a layer of some sort of coulis, or some wafers, and every time you look at it, you wonder how it’s held together but then you realise that it is held together, and it just can’t be any other way.

This is The Secret Garden. It is a book that is different every time you look at it, and it is a book that gives you something different every time you read it.

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