I love adventure stories. I love swashbuckling stories, and tales of the under dog, fighting against the odds. I love Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. I really do.
And yet, I can’t help but notice that my blog is heavy on books with interesting heroines, nestled into the sort of stories that do more to warm the heart than get the blood pumping. But that’s just life with small daughters, I suppose (especially when the eldest of the clan* is a sensitive soul with a love of language, old-fashioned things and characters with rich inner lives).
Rest assured, I do intend to broaden their horizons with all of the books listed above—eventually. For now, we’re content with Laura and Heidi and Sara Crewe, heroine of the classic book, A Little Princess.
Sara is a singular character: though wealthy and doted upon, she is not spoiled and does not consider herself set apart from the other students at her boarding school, despite the fact that the headmistress singles her out for display as a “model student” whenever visitors come to the school. But when the death of her darling father leaves her penniless and without a guardian, Sara suffers a dramatic fall in fortunes. The question at the heart of this book is one put to her by the snobbish Lavinia, who disparages the gift for storytelling and “supposing” that draw the other girls to Sara:
“It’s all very well to suppose things if you have everything,” said Lavinia. “Could you suppose and pretend things if you were a beggar and lived in a garret?”
Sara . . . looked thoughtful. “I believe I could,” she said. “If one was a beggar, one would have to suppose and pretend all the time. But it mightn’t be easy.”
This is a book rich in virtue, because—unlike the heroine of Hodgson’s better-known book, The Secret Garden—Sara is an admirable character from start to finish. Though not a literal princess, she is the sort of heroine that we are glad for our daughters to know.
A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)
*This is a special edition post because “the eldest of our clan,” Lydia, turns six this weekend. Shocking! This will be an especially literary birthday for her, as her gifts from us are all book related: a copy of The Lost Princess by George MacDonald, as well as The Complete Flower Fairies, by Cicely Barker. To top off the literariness, Sarah and I framed the cover of an old copy of The Princess and the Goblin for Lydia to hang in her corner of their shared room (the love of that girl for Irene and Curdie knows no bounds).