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By Joseph R on 12-29-09
Miss Minchin: A Large, Cold, Fishy Smile
This is not a Hollywood Shirley Temple syrupy story. No, this is a gaunt, ribs showing, frozen, knee deep mud and ragged clothes book. If you dare, turn your thermometer down to at least 40F as you listen; better, go trudging through the wet snow. Frances Hodgson Burnett knew something about being cold, hungry and poor. This book is straight from her heart. The little princess didn't make the rules, Miss Maria Minchin, Miss Amelia Minchin, the cook, maids and lawyer did. How they behaved toward a helpless child; toward powerless people is on trial here. There are Sara Crewes today, right now in state foster care. We pretend to be horrified at reports of abuse. We do nothing. We are Miss Minchin.
As an aside, have you ever noticed how your significant other behaves toward those in a position of powerlessness...say toward the newly hired teenager who makes a mistake with a burger order? Graciously or as a bully toward the weak? Behold, the real person.
I just finished another Burnett work, "Emily Fox-Sexton, The Making of a Marchioness". It is interesting the way she uses India as a kind of separate character in the book as well as in "The Secret Garden", "A Little Princess" and others. It is a kind of supernatural, mystical place of good and evil; of danger and adventure; one is never quite sure if India is real, imaginary or only a vivid dream.
The narrator, Rebecca Burns did a fine job. Her voice is uniquely her own. She seems perfectly suited to express the pathos of this work. I have a few of her titles, "Pollyanna' comes to minds.
Oh, I almost forgot, this is the story of brave and serene Sara Crewe and the intrepid lascar(sic), Ram Dass. FYI, a lascar was an Indian military specialist who hired out. Hiring a lascar was like hiring a personal Navy SEAL. Nobody messes with a lascar. Nobody.
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