Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Review: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (1903)

When Rebecca Rowena Randall is sent to live with her spinster aunts in place of the older sister who cannot be spared at home, the beginning of her stay is anything but auspicious. The aunts believe Rebecca to be prone to foolishness, like her deceased ne'er-do-well father, and Rebecca, though spirited, knows very little of the household chores she is meant to perform. As the years progress, however, Rebecca proves to be a committed student, a selfless friend, the object of a specific benefactor's affections, and a gifted writer.

This coming of age story is one I absolutely refused to read during childhood, and even now I don't think I would have liked it as a kid. I was troubled by children who had lost a parent or who simply didn't live with their parents, and all the delightful parts of Rebecca's personality would easily have been lost to me, masked by my own perception that children like her are to be pitied.  As an adult, though, I can recognize the charm of Rebecca as a character. Though her adventures are confined to her home and schoolhouse, and her triumphs involve small victories like selling enough soap to help a poor family and winning a writing contest, she has an indomitable spirit and she does and says things that real kids generally only imagine themselves doing.

My chief complaint about this book is how quickly events unfold in the second half. The story is at its best when it relates events about Rebecca's daily life prior to adolescence. Once she enters high school, the story moves along very quickly, and begins to feel rushed as compared with earlier sections. I also found the ending somewhat predictable, but that didn't bother me as much, since it does wrap things up very well, and on the necessary hopeful note.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is not my favorite book (and it really pales in comparison to Anne of Green Gables, which I read immediately following it and will review soon), but I understand why it has appealed to so many girls. I will happily let my own kids read it when they are around age 10 or so, and I will probably read it again when they do.

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