Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little PrincessPart of me wonders why people, including myself, review old books.  I mean, at this point plenty of people have read them and if it's a book this old that's still in popular circulation, then there must be a reason people read it, right?  And then I think, Well, why not?  Write the review.  It's not going to hurt anyone, after all.  And so here we are.

This book has been on my Kindle for years (Literally.  Years.) and I finally dug it out for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, for the category of a "A book more than 100 years old," or something like that.  A Little Princess was published in 1905, which makes it fit that category nicely.  I'd originally planned 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for that slot, but I really wasn't feeling it when I decided to start another book for the challenge, and so I picked this one up instead.  Several of my friends quite liked it, and it looked like a good, fast read.  Well, it was, but it left me with a few...issues.

A Little Princess is a book that's aimed at young readers, with a distinct message.  If you are good and nice and kind, like Sarah Crewe, good things will happen to you.  However, if you are mean and nasty, like Miss Minchin or Lavinia, good things will not happen to you.  However, when you look at the rest of the book with a bit more adult eye, things get a little murkier.  Sarah is not, of course, the only character.  The Large Family and Mr. Carrisford also factor in, and I had issues with them.  Both the Large Family and Mr. Carrisford are depicted as good, kind people, who want the best for Sarah and are willing to go to great lengths to find her.  Mr. Carrisford goes so far as to provide for Sarah while not knowing who she really is. But why?  Well, because he thinks it's fun.  And while the Large Family are nice, only the little boy (who Sarah calls Guy Clarence and whose real name has escaped me) stops to actually help Sarah, though the whole lot of them see her all the time.  Mr. Carrisford only helps her out of some sense of entertaining himself, not because he really wants to provide for her--she reminds him of, ironically, herself, and he does it for that reason, not because he sees someone who genuinely needs help and decides to provide it.

Honestly, the only real altruistic character in this book, other than Sarah, is the baker woman who gives Sarah more buns than she paid for and ultimately takes in a little beggar girl--this woman does everything she within her slender means to help another poor child, and she does so without expecting any sort of compensation or getting some form of amusement out of it.  The rest of the characters play with Sarah until they find out who she really is, enjoying watching her dance to their tune without her even knowing what's properly going on.  That bothered me, maybe more than it should have.  But A Little Princess clearly isn't meant to be realistic, and so it seemed to me like if the author was going to write about good people providing for others, she should have just done so instead of making the side characters really more manipulative than they seem at first glance.  The more I read, the more their "I'm so good and pure" attitudes, mixed with their really not caring at all, rubbed me the wrong way.

On the surface, this is a great, light read, and good for younger readers who probably won't see the other layers to the story.  But for me, I just couldn't take it as such a pure story, and that bothered me.

3 stars out of 5.

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