Tuesday, October 18, 2011
191. a LITTLE PRINCESS
Frances Hodgson Burnett 1904
The Book Blurb:
Ten-year-old Sara Crewe wasn't really a princess. But she seemed like one when she first arrived at Miss Minchin's London boarding school. Her father had given her all sorts of beautiful clothes before he had returned to India, as well as a pony, a French maid, and a wonderful doll named Emily. Sara wasn't spoiled, though -- almost everyone wanted to be her friend.
Suddenly a terrible misfortune left Sara penniless -- and she thought, forgotten. She had to wear old rags, live in a dingy attic, and work for her living. It wasn't a very happy life for a young girl. The mysterious changes begun, showing Sara she had never really been all alone.
What Hooked Me:
I needed a dose of a straight-forward, old-fashioned children's story with a happy ending.
'Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.'(opening lines)
"I am not in the least anxious about her education," Captain Crewe said, with his gay laugh, as he held Sara's hand and patted it. "The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast and too much. She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books. She doesn't read them, Miss Minchin; she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble, and she wants grown-up books -- great, big, fat ones -- French and German as well as English -- history and biography and poets, and all sorts of things.'(9)
"Things happen to people by accident," she used to say. "A lot of nice accidents have happened to me. It just happened that I always liked lessons and books and could remember things when I learned them. It just happened that I was born with a father who was beautiful and nice and clever, and could give me everything I liked. Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if you have everything you want and everyone's kind to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? I don't know" -- looking quite serious -- "how I shall ever find out whether I am really a nice child or a horrid one. Perhaps I'm a hideous child, and no one will ever know, just because I never have any trials."(33)
'Of course the greatest power Sara possessed and the one which gained her even more followers than her luxuries and the fact that she was "the show pupil," the power that Lavinia and certain other girls were most envious of, and at the same time most fascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling stories and of making everything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not.'(42)
'Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment.'(58)
'If Nature has made you a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full and you can give things out of that -- warm things, kind things, sweet things -- help and comfort and laughter -- and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.'(63)
'Everything's a story. You are a story -- I am a story.'(114)
'Perhaps kind thoughts reach people somehow, even through windows and doors and walls. Perhaps you feel a little warm and comforted...'(142)
'On this very afternoon, while Sara was out, a strange thing happened in the attic. Only Melchisedec saw and heard it, and he was so much alarmed and mystified that he scuttled back to his hole and hid there, and really quaked and trembled as he peeped out furtively and with great caution to watch what was going on.'(162)
'Imagine, if you can, what the rest of the evening was like. How they crouched by the fire which blazed and leaped and made so much of itself in the little grate. How they removed the covers of the dishes, and found rich, hot, savory soup, which was a meal in itself, and sandwiches and toast and muffins enough for both of them.'(196)
First Harper Trophy Book edition 1987
Book qualifies for: 100+ Reading Challenge