So, I have very fond memories of A Little Princess
from childhood, and the story is lovely and magical and candlelit in my mind. And obviously, when a book that's been adored for a century suddenly begets a sequel, there's a concern that it'll go the way of Scarlett
, and you'll have to divorce it entirely in your mind from the original, to pretend that it's a stand-alone, mediocre romance. Or a children's wish-fulfillment novel, whatever. Anyway, it's a concern.
Here's the deal: Hilary McKay did an amazing job on this book. The tone and writing style stay true to Burnett's original, and the characters are easily identifiable as those from the book as well. And, I hate to have to say this, because...A Little Princess
, right? But I think McKay actually improved on Burnett's work. The characters are the same characters, but because they're not seen through the eyes of Sara Crewe (who I love, right, but she was extremely self-righteous, spoiled, superior, and classist), they're so much more
. They're people in they're own right. And this book is much more self-aware of all those issues, especially the classism, but it fits right in with Burnett's work because the characters who we're seeing things through are characters who would be more aware of it than Sara was.
So, I loved the fire, which was a frightening adventure (without being terrifying), but was also cleansing, a rebirth for everyone at the Select Seminary. And I love that every single person got a happy ending, because A Little Princess
gave Sara such an exultant one and left all of the other characters to sighingly stagnate.
And I teared up in that moment, after the fire, when this happened:
Tristram's uncle said, “Perhaps after all there is a God.” The vicar, who had never doubted it, knelt in the mud and ashes and gave thanks.
Because I loved those girls, you know? And I'm not one for religion, but...that'd give you cause to wonder, if anything would.
So anyway, this was a winner, for me.