A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

I spent some time in the bookstore recently, determined to get a new book to read, but not quite knowing exactly what I wanted to get.  I wasn’t actually intending to get a classic, but then, quite suddenly, I saw Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and decided to get it.  I loved The Secret Garden, and decided to give this one a go, too.  (I also wanted to watch the movie, but I wanted to read the book first).
This book is similar to The Secret Garden, while also being completely different.  Both Mary and Sara are English girls from India, with rich parents that ultimately die.  Both girls end up in England, which is dreary compared to India, and both are placed in strange situations where they have to learn to fend a bit more for themselves than they are used to.
This is where the similarities stop, however.  While Mary never interacted with her parents, and is quite selfish and hot tempered at the beginning of The Secret Garden, Sara has a wonderful relationship with her father, and is the perfect little girl.  While Mary transforms from an unlikable girl to a lovely one, Sara remains perfect the entire way through the book, even when she is poor and starved and insulted every waking hour.
This book is very strange because, really, Sara is too perfect.  She never does a thing wrong, and she holds her head up high and makes the best of every situation, regardless of whether she is rich beyond belief or without a penny to her name.  The first half of the book is spent explaining all the privileges and extravagances Sara has, and the last half of the book details how she manages to still be a role model and figure of awe for some of the girls at her school, even when she is a servant girl.  It is ridiculous how wonderful this girl is!
However, with that said, I absolutely adored this book!  Sara is theoretically far too perfect to be enjoyable, and yet…she is completely enjoyable.  Her ability to pretend in order to survive is wonderful, and again, as in The Secret Garden, this novel brings such an element of magic to real life.  My favourite part of book, which I am sure must be a fan favourite in general, is the day of the buns, the feast, and the magic of Ram Dass.  Outstanding.  ****1/2
**Note on the Film**
As I said, I read this book partly because I wanted to watch the film (being the 1995 film directed by Alfonso CuarĂ³n).  I did watch the movie shortly after finishing the book, and I cannot tell you how disappointed I was!  The movie basically takes the character names and some very vague plot idea (rich girl loses money, has to be a servant, then regains fortune), and that is about it…the rest of the movie is completely different!  I definitely would not recommend this film, especially to someone who has not read the book.  However, after watching this movie, I was determined to find a better film adaptation of A Little Princess, and stumbled upon the 1986 mini-series.  While it is not perfect, it is infinitely better, in my opinion, than the 1995 film version.

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