A LITTLE PRINCESS is the story of a rich young lady, sent from India at the age of seven to be educated at a Young Ladies Seminary at the age of seven. Treated as a princess by the mistress of this establishment, Miss Minchin, Sara is regarded with jealousy by some and with awe by others. But when she suddenly becomes impoverished, Miss Minchin banishes her to the attic, and proceeds to treat her as a maid-of-all-work.
I read this book after another of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books for children, the more famous LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY. I had never read FAUNTLEROY before, and so it was interesting to compare a book I didn’t know, with a well-loved one from my childhood. There were several similarities. Like Fauntleroy, Sara is a natural aristocrat, she is kind-hearted, she acts on her kindness to help others, and she is old before her time. But A LITTLE PRINCESS is much darker than LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY. True Fauntleroy’s path to his Grandfather’s heart (and his magnificent inheritance) is not an easy ride. On the other hand, I don’t believe anyone doubts that things will work out in the end. A LITTLE PRINCESS, by contrast, contains details of real deprivation, suffering, exhaustion, abuse, all suffered by children. Although things do work out in the end, the reader is left with a much darker picture of 19th-century London. Five stars. A book club recommendation.