“As a young child Sara Crewe is brought over from India by her father to join a girl’s seminary in London. Her greatest joy is to ‘pretend’ things to make life more magical, for herself and those less fortunate than herself. She is a general favourite, but her splendid clothes, French maid, and personal carriage set her apart from the rest and create jealousy in Miss Minchin, the avaricious head of the school. When Sara is suddenly and tragically thrown into poverty, she must keep a strong hold on her vivid imagination and tender heart to prove to those who ill-treat her that even through hardship and want, she can remain ‘a little princess’.”
After reading The Secret Garden, and enjoying it completely, I sought out other classics written by Miss Frances Hodgson Burnett. And while Little Lord Fauntleroy continues to elude me, I was able to find a copy of A Little Princess in the bookstore I grew up in (which sadly doesn’t exist anymore.)
This being one of the books I managed to sneak into my busy schedule, it will come as no surprise that it was a very quick read. So far, most of the classics I’ve read are quick reads–save for Journey to the Center of the Earth. But that might have more to do with the fact that I found the main character tedious. And that’s not the case at all for Princess Sara.
Sara Crewe is as lovable as can be. She’s the complete opposite of Mary Lennox (of The Secret Garden) in which she knows how to hold her temper. But, oddly enough, I don’t remember Sara having this much spine when I look back on the A Little Princess stories I’m familiar with–the Japanese animated series, the American film directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and the Filipino movie. This is a pleasant surprise, because while I am used to female protagonists who are such martyrs, it’s very pleasant to find one who knows how to fight back–but prefers not to because it would be beneath her to do such thing. n this way, Sara Crewe is a real princess.
What makes a classic? My guess is it has to do with the story being timeless–and you can’t go more timeless (which is a weird thing to say aloud, try it) than A Little Princess. While certain things are very regional (chimneys, for one thing, are very rare in the Philippines), and some things are dated (the diamond mine boom, the Indian colonization), when you strip the story down to what Sara goes through in Miss Minchin’s school, you can imagine it really happening at a local boarding school–which we don’t have, I don’t think. Let’s say orphanages then.
But Miss Minchin isn’t completely unreasonable either. She’s just really driven to succeed, which I gleaned from the original source material. In the Japanese animated series, and the movies, she just came off as one sadistic bi—
With the current success (and popularity) of The Hunger Games, I think it’s important now more than ever for people to get exposed to the classics again. Not that I’m disparaging The Hunger Games in any way. It’s a very well-written book, and I’m a fan. But it also features too many +1’s: it’s set in a dystopian future, it has action, adventure, a love story–it’s a mutt. And people should learn to appreciate the beauty of a simple story again. Like A Little Princess.