365 Days of Women Writers

Women writers only – no boys allowed

Day 5: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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A Little Princess is essentially the Book of Job in kid book form. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the Book of Job? Not only does God take everything away from him for a bit of entertainment, at the end he gets a replacement family to replace the ones who died in the beginning. Well, I guess that makes everything all better, doesn’t it? Pity about the poor dead kids he had before, I’m sure he doesn’t miss them a bit.

Sara Crewe is the richest, prettiest, nicest girl a Miss Minchin’s academy. Then her father tragically dies and she loses pretty much all of it, except for the nice part because she’s still so nice she could be made out of pure sugar. Then, having steadfastly proven herself worthy, she gets a new “dad” (who by the virtue of authorial coincidence was her old dad’s partner, her mysterious benefactor and currently living next door) and her fortune back, and is restored once more to her place.

I quite enjoyed this book as a child and recently reread it on my ipad (all hail project Gutenberg!) and I still enjoyed it quite a lot though the basic structure does rather irritate me.

I like the fanciful names Sara invents for the family next door:

She called them the Montmorencys when she did not call them the Large Family. The fat, fair baby with the lace cap was Ethelberta Beauchamp Montmorency; the next baby was Violet Cholmondeley Montmorency; the little boy who could just stagger and who had such round legs was Sydney Cecil Vivian Montmorency; and then came Lilian Evangeline Maud Marion, Rosalind Gladys, Guy Clarence, Veronica Eustacia, and Claude Harold Hector.

And I like it when Miss Minchin gets her comeuppance at the end of the book:

“Then,” said Miss Minchin, “I appeal to Sara. I have not spoiled you, perhaps,” she said awkwardly to the little girl; “but you know that your papa was pleased with your progress. And—ahem—I have always been fond of you.”
Sara’s green-gray eyes fixed themselves on her with the quiet, clear look Miss Minchin particularly disliked.

“Have YOU, Miss Minchin?” she said. “I did not know that.”

Miss Minchin reddened and drew herself up.

“You ought to have known it,” said she; “but children, unfortunately, never know what is best for them. Amelia and I always said you were the cleverest child in the school. Will you not do your duty to your poor papa and come home with me?”

Sara took a step toward her and stood still. She was thinking of the day when she had been told that she belonged to nobody, and was in danger of being turned into the street; she was thinking of the cold, hungry hours she had spent alone with Emily and Melchisedec in the attic. She looked Miss Minchin steadily in the face.

“You know why I will not go home with you, Miss Minchin,” she said; “you know quite well.”

A hot flush showed itself on Miss Minchin’s hard, angry face.

But mostly I like the moment of magic when Sara wakes up and finds herself resting under warm covers with a hot pot of tea and a warm dinner waiting for her.
Click to buy from US AmazonClick to buy from UK Amazon

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Written by Chance

September 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm

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