Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Book: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Writer(s): Kate Douglas Wiggin
I didn't know anything about the book except I had a vague impression that it was a "girlie" book. Nothing could be further from the truth! This is a classic novel about alienation. Rebecca's a girl who doesn't fit in at home, where she's just one of seven children, nor at the home of her two spinster aunts, where she lives for several years, nor at school, where she's not pretty enough for the boys and has too much imagination for her teachers. She's a delight! Modest and self-effacing, with a pure heart, she tries her best but always seems to be causing her conservative aunts trouble (like when she invites company over without telling them). The "plot" of the novel is all characterization: Rebecca, the wild child, is sent to live with her staid aunts in place of her more practical (i.e. useful) sister Hannah, and slowly, over a period of years, she humanizes the old crones into a semblance of life, while growing up herself. This book had many scenes that brought tears to my eyes. For instance, early on we learn about Rebecca's most prized possession, her pink parasol, so precious she carries it under her dress to keep the sun from fading the color. Later, when she earns the outrage of her aunt by inadvertently getting paint on her clothes (she was too busy enjoying the scenery to notice the "wet paint" sign), she concludes her aunt's scolding wasn't nearly enough punishment, so she decides to sacrifice her cherished parasol by throwing it down the well. The parasol gets tangled in the pump, and then her aunts are upset with her for ruining a valuable possession! Poor Rebecca. Her life is full of such minor high drama, and it is a delight to read about such innocent problems (especially in this callous age). The book is surprisingly witty and very entertaining. The humor is of the sneak-up-behind-you kind; I found it delightful. Here's an example. Rebecca has written a poem personalizing her family's dreadful mortgage. When her friend protests that mortgages don't have faces, she says, "Our mortgage has. I should know him if I met him in the dark. Wait and I'll draw him for you. It will be good for you to know how he looks, and then when you have a husband and seven children, you won't allow him to come anywhere within a mile of your farm." The book is full of wonderful stuff like that! A terrific read, highly recommended. Barely dated despite its age. Author Jack London (I'm reading his awesome Call of the Wild right now) wrote Kate Douglas Wiggin a letter about her classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm from the headquarters of the First Japanese Army in Manchuria in 1904: "May I thank you for Rebecca?... I would have quested the wide world over to make her mine, only I was born too long ago and she was born but yesterday.... Why could she not have been my daughter? Why couldn't it have been I who bought the three hundred cakes of soap? Why, O, why?" That sums up my feelings exactly!