A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
I recently reread A Little Princess for quite possibly the 30th time. Or maybe it just feels that way. In any case, this is a book that I can read over and over again and never get tired of. Frances Hodgeson Burnett has a certain magic to her writing, and it’s a magic that comes through most clearly in A Little Princess and The Secret Garden.
For the uninitiated, A Little Princess is the story of Sara Crewe, a little girl sent to a London girls’ seminary in the 1880s. At the start of the story, Sara is a mere seven years old, the beloved and rather spoiled daughter of a wealthy single dad in India (her mother having died in childbirth). Because the Indian climate is notoriously bad for European children, Sara is sent away to school, as was the done thing in the 1880s.
But Sara isn’t just shipped off like many such children were under the care of a nurse or in a group. She was personally escorted by her doting father. They are each other’s whole world. She is his “Little Missus” and he is her darling papa.
Sara is left in the care of Miss Minchin, the proprietor of this particular seminary, and they take an immediate dislike to each other. However, because Miss Minchin is being paid hundreds of pounds a year by this child’s father to treat her like a queen, the school mistress swallows her feelings and has a constant mask of sickly sweetness on every time she speaks to Sara. For her part, Sara remains completely courteous and willing to Miss Minchin, because she is not, as you may have been thinking, a spoiled little brat. She carries herself not aloof, but simply above the standards set for her. She’s a smart child, and a kindly child, and quickly becomes the star of the school.
Now I don’t want to spoil the story for you if you’ve never read it, so from here on, this post is under the cut. Read on at your own risk!
i never answer when i can help it.
When people are insulting you, there is nothing so good for them as not to say a word — just to look at them and think. Miss Minchin turns pale with rage when I do it, Miss Amelia looks frightened, and so do the girls. When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and they say stupid things they wish they hadn’t said afterwards. There’s nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in — that’s stronger. It’s a good thing not to answer your enemies. I scarcely ever do.
— A Little Princess, Frances Hodgeson Burnett
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
Yep, here’s another review of a children’s book.
Wait a second before you run away: It’s one of my favourite children’s books.
It’s a riches-rags-riches type tale which is sometimes considers a children’s classic. I love it and have pretty much grown up reading and re-reading it.
I re-read it the other day and was struck again by how much I liked it.
First, the main character loves books AS MUCH AS I DO. I’m sorry, but that is a rare thing in a character.
Despite the fact that it’s set in the past, it does have concepts which are family. Sara and her friends Ermengarde and Lottie are bullied, for instance. If that’s not something a lot of people are familiar with, then I’m living in a different universe to the one I woke up in this morning.
Would you like a synopsis? No? Well, bad luck, I’m giving you one anyway.
Sara Crew is 8 years old when her father leaves her at Miss Minchin’s school in England, something of an expected action for children who grew up in India. Due to Sara’s immense wealth and special treatment she recieves, she becomes a target for the school bully Lavinia. However, she always responds with kindness and quickly befriends the youngest student, a lonely 4 year old called Lottie, and Ermengarde, who has no other friends. She also befriends the scullery maid who everybody else either ignores or abuses.
Then disaster strikes (as it does in all novels). Sara’s wealth is stripped away from her and she is forced into intolerable conditions. Will her friends stand by her, or has she really lost everything?
Hopefully that was a good synopsis and didn’t give you too many spoilers. I hope any of you who haven’t read the book consider it, or maybe buy it for a younger relative if you can’t be bothered with a “kid’s book”.
I do recommend reading it though, but I’m probably biased. After all, it was a huge part of my childhood.
It’s also one of the books where I always picture the actors from the film, no matter how different they looked to the descriptions in the books. I loved that film.
Anyway, that’s probably enough for this review. It’s a great book! (in case you didn’t grasp that from my previous babbling).
Bye! And Read on! :P