Due to quite a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list, I decided to go easier on myself by reading some more of the children’s classics on my list, this year. After finishing Jo’s Boy by Louisa May Alcott, I immediately picked up A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which I have been looking forward to reading after adoring Burnett’s most famous and a classic of children’s literature, The Secret Garden.
A Little Princess is an earlier novel of Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1905, which tells the tale of Sara Crewe, an exceptionally intelligent and imaginative, young lady, the daughter of Captain Crewe and his beautiful French wife. Sadly Sara never knew her mother, who died when she was born, so instead she has grown up with just her adored, indulgent father in India. However believing she will gain a better education, Captain Crewe brings his cherished daughter back to England and places her in the care of Miss Minchin in her recommended Select Seminary for Young Ladies.
Sara’s arrival in all her finery, with her exquisite doll, her French maid and request for a private room, causes quite a stir amongst the other pupils – causing much jealousy from the older girls. However as spoilt and pampered as she is, Sara is neither arrogant or snobbish, but rather is a kind, generous and unaffected little girl, who befriends the school ‘dunce’, Ermengarde; the younger, difficult Lottie and even the lowly scullery-maid, Becky. Meanwhile, Miss Minchin may openly fawn over Sara, but she secretly despises and resents Sara for her wealth, intelligence and spirited-nature.
After some time at the school, Miss Minchin throws an elaborate birthday party for the school’s star-pupil, Sara – in-the-midst of which the terrible news arrives that Sara’s beloved father has died of a fever, after a failed gold mine venture and subsequent bankruptcy. Sara is now a penniless orphan. Resentful of the little girl, the money she has spent on her and the lost prestige, Miss Minchin cruelly forces Sara to work as a servant in the school and live in a room in the attic, with no love, comfort or kindness.
And yet, through it all, Sara still shines. Using her wonderful imagination she conjures beautiful thoughts, stories and dreams that comfort and strengthen her in her daily toil. Neither do her good friends Ermengarde, Lottie and Becky desert her – sneaking away to share snatched moments with her. As time passes Sara becomes thinner, paler and her clothes become small and ragged, but still she carries herself in a dignified way and she shows kindness to those even less fortunate than her; which draws the attention of kindly neighbours and will lead to another change in fortune for the stalwart Sara.
Overall, I thought A Little Princess was an utterly charming tale of a little girl’s hope and courage through adversity, and I can see how it is one of the best-loved stories in children’s literature. I still think The Secret Garden is my favourite though and I definitely look forward to reading more by Burnett. Great read.
Have you read this? Or read anything else by Frances Hodgson Burnett?
This is book 11/50 for my Classics Club II.