Monday, March 19, 2007

The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I just finished this book. It took me way too long to read. However, I guess I was distracted by a few life situations. At any rate, I am now done reading this book. I made a point to read this one before reading The Constant Gardner this month due to the fact that I always seem to miss reading Sky's picks when I delay them.

I've seen the movie versions of this book multiple times. (Can anyone say Shirley Temple?) The thing I was most surprised about the book ending was that Sara's father does die. I don't think any of the movie versions have him die. Or, at least, not the ones I've seen. So I was a little taken aback by that. I kept expecting him to pop back into the picture at some point.

Sara Crew was kind of an annoying little girl; she was rather too perfect for my liking. I thought the way the "magic" was woven into the story was kinda cute but mostly obnoxious. Sara's thankfulness was misplaced and I guess that's what bothered me the most.

I did appreciate how she felt when people interrupted her while reading:

"It makes me feel as if someone had hit me," Sara had told Ermengarde once in confidence. "And as if I want to hit them back. I have to remember things quickly to keep from saying something ill-tempered."

I could identify with that!

Otherwise, this was a cute little tale but not one that I can truly say that I love. (Sorry, Sky!)


At 2:09 PM, Blogger Sky said...

I know, it wasn't really a "Sky" book was it? I do love that quote though. I had to learn to put my books down and not be snappish toward my savages.
I like Shirley Temple's movie so much better then the book, but it's one of those Classics that I often wonder why they are classics. Is it me? Am I reading it wrong?
Nice to know that you didn't much like it either.
I read it before I saw the movie and I cannot tell you the relief that my 8 year old self felt when Captain Crew did not die.
It was the first movie I had ever seen that depicted a British war. It sparked an interest in me as I was very well versed on American wars and often had wondered what the redcoats were like when they were home.
Someone gave it to me as a must read when I was little and I wanted opinions on it that weren't my own.
I am hoping someday to write a book about a little girl that I CAN read and love and that you would love YOUR kids to read! (I have rough drafts and plot outlines but Sooooo little time!)
On my other book choice;
I have never discussed Alice in Wonderland and I am quite curious as to everyone's opinions...

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Sky said...

I didn't review the book because CB said what I would have said. I didn't feel it necessary to echo her sentiments in type so I'll just say DITTO.

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Rose said...

What fun this book club is, to read everyone's different perspective! Now I, for one, absolutely love this book - it is definitely one of my all-time favourites. I can pick it up and get lost in it time after time. Perhaps it has residual sentimental value for me, since I've loved it since I was a child, but I do think it is an exceptionally well-written book.

What girl hasn't dreamed of being a princess at some point in her life? This book incorporates magic without actually being a fantasy novel (a characteristic shared by this author's other book, The Secret Garden).

The writing is clear and fresh and the dialogue delightful. ('I will beg your pardon for laughing, if it was rude, but I will not beg your pardon for thinking.')

Now, something that I perceive as a weakness of the book (but not a flaw, since I like how it plays out) is that the characters are completely exaggerated and unrealistic. NOBODY could be as mean as Miss Minchin, or as spiteful as Lavinia. But they are just caricatures, so they play their parts well. You're supposed to hate Miss Minchin in order to secure your sympathies for Sara.

Also in the unrealistic department is Sara's attitude toward servants. She doesn't look down on Becky before her fall from riches, and even is insightful enough to realise that Becky is just another little girl like her. This isn't a normal thought process for rich little girls in the Victorian Era, who were extremely class conscious. However, Sara grew up in India, so she may have had a different perspective on this.

The drama is classic - riches to rags and back to riches again. The development of the plot is well-done, as you recognise the identity and significance of the Indian gentleman long before the denouement.

It is sad that Sara's papa dies, but sad things do happen in life. I've never seen the movie, but I can't imagine by what stretch of the imagination you could have the story without Sara's papa dying. Children need to read books with realistic morals, with the sad mixed in with the happy. I don't believe in sugar-coating endings for children.

I also like the moral messages of the book. Virtue is its own reward - Miss Minchin should not have been so cruel to Sara. Sara established her network of support long before she needed the friends, so they were there for her when she was down. Sara was unselfish and generous in the matter of the currant buns (not to mention honest).

I can't wait for my daughters to grow old enough to read and appreciate this book.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Sky said...

Wow, Rose I really liked your review. It's a totally different perspective and I never even thought of the book in this light. I liked what you said about the characters being exaggerated. It's true that you just HAVE to hate Ms Minchin and love Sara.

Children raised in India were raised by Indian mothers so it would be very likely that Sara had more respect and even felt a familial love for the servants.

I don't remember what I thought about Captain Crew dying when I read this book when I was little.
But now I think it just hits too close to home for me. Being a military wife with kids I don't even want to think about it. And seeing veterans and graves is a very realistic part of our lives. I like to read childrens books that are uplifting and end happily.

(Although I also like mystery novels so go figure But they do have to end happy.)

I think I will let my kids decide themselves whether or not to read this book.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Alaina said...

This was a favorite of mine while growing up. It's a lot like Cinderella, if you think about it. Motherless girl with a doting father; father dies, leaves girl with a spiteful woman to bring her up; girl remains kind and dutiful despite being mistreated and having to slave away; her goodness is finally rewarded and she is restored to good fortune, while her enemies get their just desserts. I love the rags to riches storylines! (It's the sentimentalist in me.)

Now that I'm older, I can read the story more critically, and I think an aspect that bothers me now is that there is goodness without God. Sara is a righteous character, and her morality is intrinsic, rather than credited to God's grace. There is no mention of God at all, really, or thanksgiving to him for life's blessings.

But it's still a very enjoyable book for me, with a balanced structure, fun characters and a satisfying ending.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

I do like *A Little Princess*, although it's not my favorite Burnett. (My favorite is a hard-to-find one called *The Lost Prince*, I think.) Sara is almost too good to be believed, but she's got just enough orneriness to keep her bearable. I wonder if the chief difference between her and the unbearable Lottie is that she was treated as a friend and companion by her father, not as a pet.

Burnett's books always have a rather odd taste in the spiritual realm. I think I would want to read them with my children the first time.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Kathleen Marie said...

I agree, it is not one of my favorite books by any means and the movie industry does take liberty by making the book more child friendly.

This is not my favorite Burnett book but I have encouraged my children to read it, watch the movie(s) and make their own judgements.

I did enjoy the Constant Gardener, although enjoy is not the proper word as the book is intense. It is a good but hard read do to the subject matter.


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