Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Published: February 2002 by Penguin Classic (first published 1905)
Goodreads Summary: Sara Crewe, an exceptionally intelligent and imaginative student at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, is devastated when her adored, indulgent father dies. Now penniless and banished to a room in the attic, Sara is demeaned, abused, and forced to work as a servant. 

As a girl, it’s quite difficult not to know Sarah Crewe, the wealthy little girl who was forced to live as a miserable servant at the boarding school she was supposed to study in, when her father died oversea. She had to endure the headmistress Ms Machin cruelty and the harsh life of a peniless servant. I was actually never a fan of the series and never even cared about it. I don't think I ever watched an episode entirely. However I was curious about the book.

A Little Princess was published in 1905. The story perfectly mirrors the taste and habit of the time. Sarah when she was a “princess” was treated with all the care in the world by everybody. However when she loses all her money because of her father’s death she is considered as important as a rat even though she’s just 7. Actually you could say that she is even worse than a rat as she has to be dressed, fed and cleaned. But she is able to cope more or less well with this situation despite the fact that she was accustomed to a lavish and extravagant lifestyle.

At 7 years-old, Sarah is clever, selfless, creative, funny, friendly, queer, kind and humble. If I wanted, I could have added a dozen more complimentary adjectives to describe her. No matter what hurdle is thrown at her, Sarah always bravely overcomes it. She went from a princess to a servant without any family to support her but still, she never breaks. Okay, maybe she cries once or twice but she never falls into despair. 

She’s very much of a sweet 7 years old going on a life hardened 40. I’m usually one of these readers who dislike characters without any distinct flaws. I can never be fully invested in them. At time I even feel that they drain the story. Strangely, in A little princess case, I wasn’t bothered by that.

I think it might have been because I consider the story as some sort of tale delivering moral lessons to children. These lessons are that that no matter your current situation, you must always stay humble because you might never know what might happen to you. That if you stay patient and rigorous, you will eventually be rewarded and that goodness always wins in the end.

In any case, I appreciated the novel. It was simple, well written and not too long. I think A Little princess is the perfect book if you’re travelling and have nothing to do. The story isn’t mind-blowing or particularly original, but it’s a nice quick read.

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