Listening Corner

19th May 1995 at 01:00
The Little Princess. Frances Hodgson Burnett Age group: 6-14. SheHodder Children's Books. Pounds 3.50.

When little Sara Crewe is left at Miss Minchin's Academy for Young Ladies, it seems that, with her doll and her French maid and her native wit and charm, she will have no problems other than those of missing her Papa, handsome Captain Crewe.

But three years later, just after she and her friends have gloried in the finery of her Last Doll, unpacked at a lavish birthday party, news is brought that her father has died of "brain fever", losing all his money in an ill-advised diamond mine.

Everything changes in an instant. From being the star "parlour board-er" with a retinue of friends and admirers, Sara becomes the charity pupil, forced to run errands in all weathers, teach in exchange for her meagre board and a roof over her head. Only those to whom she has shown kindness Lottie the orphan, Ermintrude the fat girl and Becky the little half-starved kitchen maid stand by Sara and her gift for transforming reality with stories.

Then, one day, the very worst day, everything changes once more. Just when the forces of evil seem to have triumphed, Fate takes a hand and slowly, Sara becomes a Little Princess again.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's tale of virtue rewarded is as gripping as ever in this audio version, though a little less editing would have preserved more of the rivetting detail of life above and below stairs in Victorian London and avoided some needless rewriting of the most affecting passages.

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