Book Review: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett cover

A Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: 1905
Rating: Nostalgic

Between the lines of every story there is another story, and that is one that is never heard and can only be guessed at by the people who are good at guessing.

I couldn't tell you the number of times that I have reread this book over the years. It is often a dicey thing rereading something that you loved as a child. Often it does not stand up to the test or perhaps some previously unnoticed problematic elements. 

Somewhere I read something about A Little Princess that said that Sara doesn't use her imagination to the best of her ability because she didn't use it to figure a way out of her situation. I can't for the life of me remember where I read this but I have been thinking about it on and off ever since I came across it several years ago and I believe that it is unfair. Sara is eleven years old and living in Victorian London.  It isn't as if there is a safety net or as if there is a societal norm that recognizes childhood.  She is put to work immediately, but she is still far too young to make it out on the street on her own. If she was sixteen or older, she might have been realistically able to imagine a way out of her situation, but at age eleven and twelve all she can do is use her imagination to survive the best she can day to day.

I tried to look past my infatuation with this book while reading it this time and notice the representation.  It wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. I still feel as if I have to be beaten over the head with it for me to see it without it being pointed out to me. It is a work in progress. Anyhow, India and an Indian character are part of the story. Becky refers to hearing that the man moving in next door is from India, and she thinks that he will be a heathen.  I think that that was supposed to be a comment on Becky's simple unworldliness as she wants it to be a whole family so she can learn how they live. The word "Oriental" is used, and the only Indian in the story is a servant. It certainly isn't a modern mindset.  I could see that it might be grating. 

I loved it all over again.  There is something about food and clothing being described in children's books. Toys as well. It is as if the imagery imprints itself upon your brain stem never to depart.  Sara's rose colored dancing dress. Seriously, that dress.  The too short black velvet she wears after her father dies.  The last doll.  The meal in the attic with Ermengarde. It was all there just waiting to wake up again upon rereading.  I loved Sara with her quiet thoughtfulness; Ram Dass who sees so much; the Large Family, who doesn't get enough love; and Becky who just keep going no matter how much life tries to grind her down. This book still lives in my heart.

From Goodreads:

Alone in a new country, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to settle in and make friends at boarding school. But when she learns that she'll never see her beloved father gain, her life is turned upside down. Transformed from princess to pauper, she must swap dancing lessons and luxury for hard work and a room in the attic. Will she find that kindness and genorosity are all the riches she truly needs?