Wishing For Tomorrow: A Sequel To The Little Princess - Hilary McKay
Readers may well approach this sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett's timeless novel, A Little Princess, with both skepticism and high expectations. McKay quickly dispels the former and more than fulfills the latter. As she did in The Exiles and its companion stories and in her novels about the Casson clan, the author explores family dynamics—in this case those of the close-knit students left behind at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies after Sara Crewe departs—with humor and insight. Did they not have a story too? What happens next? asks McKay's introduction. Now staying in the south of England with her new guardian and maid, Becky, Sara retains a strong presence in these pages, largely through flashbacks and letters to her best friend, Ermengarde (only once, in an emotional scene in which Sara insists that Becky leave her service to marry her beau, does Sara appear in the present). McKay gives vibrant new life to the school's remaining residents. Earnest, conflicted Ermengarde eases her pain at losing Sara by penning lengthy letters to her—most never posted (writing them was like shedding a heavy cloak. It was like opening a window). At Sara's request, Ermengarde takes under her wing stubborn and unsquashable Lottie, who utters some of the funniest lines; reprimanded for licking the neighbor's cat, she retorts, He licked me first. Additions to the roster include a cheeky but good-humored boy next door and the wise, outspoken maid, Alice. Enhanced by Maland's period illustrations, the novel convincingly evokes the Victorian era, even as McKay interjects a contemporary sensibility. A surprising, dramatic denouement caps this droll and heartwarming tale, a very worthy follow-up to a well-loved classic. (courtesy of Amazon)
Sequels to classic novels are often weak replicas of the original. I thought this was an excellent reproduction and expansion of the world of Sara Crewe and Ms. Minchin's Academy. The book feels like it could have been written 100 years ago. Its language is reminiscent of a fairy-tale. The book begins around the time Sara leaves the Academy and continues the story for several months afterward.
The main narrator is Ermengarde, Sara's best friend. But the strongest characters are Lottie, Lavinia, and Alice, the new maid. Lottie is growing up but continues to be an adventurous trouble-maker, finding new and interesting ways to act up. Lavinia realizes that her education at Ms. Minchin's Academy is lacking and pours herself into learning more. Alice brings a laissez-faire attitude to the academy, lightening up the girls' world. Ermengarde does not really make any new discoveries or have great adventures. She's really the weakest character. We learn more about her sad family life and see her mourn over the loss of her best friend, Sara, and also deal with her jealousy. It's a sad tale of a lonely girl who's lost her best friend.
Two real treasures of the novel are occasional narrators: Melchizedek the Rat and Bosco the cat. I love Bosco's description of the "human slaves." I'm sure my cat would agree.
This is a fabulous continuation to A Little Princess.
Rating: 4 / 5