Namratha's Reviews > A Little Princess

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
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Jun 08, 2015

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bookshelves: classics, journey-within, tween-time, ya-lit
Read from February 24 to 27, 2012


Sara Crewe is the much-adored and much-pampered daughter of wealthy Captain Crewe of India. Blessed with intelligence, an inquiring mind and a fertile imagination, Sara is surprisingly unspoilt and a general delight. Soon, she finds herself as a student in 'Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies' in London. Being a wealthy little girl, adorned with every possible luxury that money can buy and neatly tied up with an innately likeable nature, Sara soon finds herself to be rather popular at the seminary. Fawned over by the mercenary Miss Minchin, admired (at times grudgingly) by her school mates and practically revered by a few friends and the scullery maid...Sara is living the life of *A PRINCESS*.

But a cruel twist of faith leaves Sara penniless. The luxuriant furs, the delicate dresses, the gossamer kerchiefs, the glittering necklaces and the adulation...all disappear. Soon, the little pretend Princess is nothing more than an unpaid, overworked dogsbody who runs endless errands and lives in a grimey attic that defines ‘despair’.

Do friends stay true? Do misfortunes make or break Sara? Do nobility of heart and strength of spirit win the day?

All that and much more in A Little Princess .


I am a sizeable fan of The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Every instalment of the trials and teenache of Mia Thermopolis had a quote from A Little Princess in it’s foreword. My interest was piqued but not enough to actually lay my hands on the girly classic.
It was only recently, when buried under the onslaught of supernatural thrillers, dystopian dramas and rehashed YA romances, that I decided to help myself to a palate cleanser. My jaded brain needed something simple, old-fashioned and fairly straightforward.

...and A little Princess was just that.

For a person who idolizes Éowyn , Elizabeth Bennet , Jo March , Buffy Summers , Hermione Granger , Annabeth Chase , Luna Lovegood and Mulan ....Sara Crewe pales in comparison. She is a pristine white character with nary an uncharitable thought. The rest of the characters too, quickly fall into two categories: the noble and deferential on the one hand and the nasty and self-serving on the other hand. With the application of an improbable deus ex machina, Sara’s grave situation is resolved with unbelievable speed. It’s not natural. And too coincidental to ring true.

Just when Sara Crewe is in danger of going down as the biggest Mary-Sue in all of fictiondom, the author fleshes out her cardboard character with an introspective gem like this:
Things happen to people by accident. 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 is kind to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? How will I 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.

And so, when adversity comes a’knocking, Sara Crewe gets a chance to test her true nature. I liked the dignity with which she handled the spiteful Miss Minchin. I liked the fact that some friends stayed true, despite the turn in Sara’s fortunes. And most of all, Sara’s vivid imagination which helps her to transform the dingiest of places to grandiose settings , is enchanting.

A Little Princess could well belong to the optimistic world of Disney. Perfect and just what the doctor prescribed for girls with starry dreams. Little girls will grow up eventually. They will fend off their smarmy frogs and will battle their dragons. But till then, this little book is reserved for the glittery corners of their dreams.
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