Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Little Princess: The Story of Sara Crewe - Frances Hodgson Burnett


For my eighth book in my Shelf Discovery Challenge Rampage Month, I decided to read "A Little Princess". I did not read this book as a child, but my husband had very fond memories of reading it in Poland as a youth. I find this somewhat comical, because this novel seems so totally feminine. Apparently, his sister read the book first, and convinced him it was worth the effort just to bask in the deliciously horrid character of Miss Minchen. We have also always loved the movie, which is precious and magical.

The story is about a young girl named Sara Crewe, who was raised in India by her very wealthy father. Being motherless hasn't seemed to dampen this girl's spirits. In fact, she is a mature, joyful and well-adjusted child, who is loved by all. At the age of 7, her father takes her to a London school for girls, run by the brutal, money-mongering Miss Minchen. But money talks, and Sara lives well...she is given the largest room, a personal servant of her own, and the biggest birthday parties. Sara is not spoiled though. She speaks flawless French, is an excellent dancer, and has befriended most of the girls, even the backwards and difficult ones. Everyone calls her "Princess Sara", because she believes that every girl is a princess, no matter how poor or rich, how beautiful or plain.


On Sara's 11th birthday, however, she receives word that her father has died suddenly, and without a penny, due to a bad investment. The evil Minchen absconds of Sara's beautiful possessions, forces her into servitude, starves her, and provides a rat-infested attic in which to live. In Princess Sara style, she refuses to let her circumstances get her down. She finds beauty in the sunsets from the attic window, she befriends the resident rat, continues to entertain the other girls with fantastic stories, tells herself that she is still a princess, and holds fast to her dignity. Magical things start to happen when a family movies in next door, accompanied by a mysterious Indian gentleman. Who are they? And who sneaks into the attic while Sara is away, leaving food, comfortable bedding and books?

This is an amazing, charming, magical tale that envies Cinderella. I can see why children would be obsessed with it. The prose seemed a little simplistic and awkward at times, with the point of view erratically jumping all over the place. Still, it does not take away from the pleasure of reading this enchanted book of good versus evil.

BUT (this is a seriously big but), it was to my great disadvantage to have seen the movie first. I loved that movie. I've seen it dozens of times. But someone took the written word and completely bastardized it. In case you haven't seen the movie, I won't go into details, but let's just say that they Hollywooded it to freaking death, and totally changed the story. And I had no idea until I finished the book one night. It was almost a book-throwing situation. I raged to my husband the next morning over our orange juice. "What the hell was THAT?", I asked. "How dare they?", I screamed. He stood there open-mouthed for a few seconds, then said "Well it isn't the author's fault!". I replied, "Yes, I know that. But I couldn't separate the two, and it ruined it for me!".

So this is a perfect example of how the movie can ruin the book. If you've never experienced either, I think you will love the book. If you've seen the movie first, just be prepared for a whole different plot, and proceed with caution and no expectations!

3 out of 5 stars


23 comments:

Melody said...

I've not read the book or watch the movie yet. But after reading your review, I'll make sure to read the book first!!

caite said...

another children's classic I never read.
what was I reading?....

Kals said...

It's been on my TBR for ages and I have it lined up for one of my challenges in 2010. I always get to hear only great things about the book =)

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't read or watched this either - you are putting us to shame by reading all these classics!

JoAnn said...

I remember loving this book!!

princess stories for girls said...

The Little Princess seems to a good book to add to my collection. My girls will enjoy it

Julie P. said...

Great review and thanks for the heads-up about the movie. You are putting me to shame with this challenge!

bermudaonion said...

I've never seen the movie or read the book, but oh, how I would love to have an attitude like Sara's! Great review.

Literary Feline said...

I really liked this book--and the movie even as different as it was. It's been years and years since I've read/seen either though. Maybe I'd be less tolerant of the changes now.

raych said...

I'll never see the movie because this was the First Book of my Life. I mean, I'd read books before, but this is the first one I remember reading, and the one that made me go, YES, BOOKS! Except I had the flu at the time - my mom had picked it up from the library to cheer me up - so it was more like Yes! *cough, whine, moan* Books!

The Bumbles said...

I never even knew there was a movie. I loved the book as a little girl - though like all of these childhood favorites the details are fuzzy or gone completely. I'm confused by your movie reaction - if the movie was so different/not as good why did it spoil the enjoyment of the book?

Jeane said...

Loved the book since I was a child. Saw the movie later, and I liked it alright, but just doesn't compare. I don't remember how much they changed.

I do know that seeing the movie first spoiled reading Little Women for me. I wish I'd read that one beforehand!

Amy said...

I am so disappointed to read that the movie almost completely ruined the book for you. It's practically sinful, Sandy! I have very strong feelings about this because "The Little Princess" was one of my top 5 favorite books as a little girl. The story was charming, exciting, scary and such fun for me way back when. I read it several times a year between the ages of 5 and 12. I have a beautiful copy of this book with wonderful illustrations which enhanced to my love of the book.

I'm so disappointed in Hollywood and their idiocy...once again. I love that your husband has great memories of this book from his childhood. I wouldn't peg it as a book that would be popular with little boys, but there is someadventure, mystery and secrecy in the story.

Thank you for bringing back lovely memories for me, Sandy, & reminding me that I don't want to see the movie version of "The Little Princess"!

Sandy Nawrot said...

As usual these days, I am lax in replying to all of you. Sorry, I am in a different universe. Still I wanted to comment that while it is not the author's fault that the book disappointed me, I was let down nevertheless. The book is fabulous, and the movie is fabulous. But the movie is so far removed from the book, that I had expectations that weren't met as far as the plot. I hate to say anymore and spoil things, but in reading the book, I kept waiting for things to happen that never materialized. After seeing the ending of the movie, the ending of the book is a serious bummer. The director/screenwriter should be shamed.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Are you talking about the Shirley Temple movie? I loved that! But I didn't read the book...

Jenners said...

OH I LOVED THIS BOOK! LOVED IT!!!!!!

Kim Frazier said...

I just have to comment! I love reading your reviews and reactions and I do a lot of responding in my head but this is my first post on your blog. I feel abt this book the way you talk abt the Judy Blume books. I read this one so many times as a kid that there was no cover left on it! It was absolutely my favorite book. I am going to have to read it again just for old times sake. Now I know I have seen the movie but I think I had read the book so many times I just separated the two. I enjoyed the Shirley Temple version but felt it was a different story than the book!Thanks for the memories!!

Alyce said...

This makes me glad I haven't seen the movie. I loved the book when I was younger. I haven't read it as an adult though.

Lisa said...

With Little Women, this is my favorite childhood book. I love the messages in this book so much, I give it to all little girls.

Zibilee said...

This book was a gift from my daughter since I had never read it, and it is still sitting on the shelf unread at this point. I really liked your review and think that I am going to try and get to it sometime soon because the story sounds really heartwarming and like something I would love. And I am sorry to hear that there was such a disconnect between the book and the movie.

Beth F said...

YOu are kicking butt on this challenge. I love the movie and haven't read this book. Maybe I should just let Shirley Temple tell me the story.

heidenkind said...

I read this book so, so long ago. It really is a great book, although I don't remember much about it because I read it so long ago. But I do remember getting VERY involved in it.

Nymeth said...

That's such a pity that the movie ruined it for you! I'm always scared that'll happen, which is why I try to read the books first. I tend to grow attached to the first version I encounter.

I also missed out on this one growing up, but I'll be sure to read it at some point.