Friday, 3 September 2010

Foreign Language Friday: Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Dear Blog,
because it's a classic.  And sorry it's such a short review, but it's the middle of the night in England (I can't sleep), and so I'm not in my best review-writing mindset.

Name: Name: Heidi (originally Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre)

Written by: Johanna Spyri
Originally Published in: German
Translated by: it depends which edition you get.  Some translations are excellent, while some aren't so great.
Summary (from Goodreads): Johanna Spyri's classic story of a young orphan sent to live with her grumpy grandfather in the Swiss Alps is retold in it's entirety in this beautifully bound hardcover edition. Heidi has charmed and intrigued readers since it's original publication in 1880. Much more than a children's story, the narrative is also a lesson on the precarious nature of freedom, a luxury too often taken for granted. Heidi almost loses her liberty as she is ripped away from the tranquility of the mountains to tend to a sick cousin in the city. Happily, all's well that ends well, and the reader is left with only warm, fuzzy thoughts. Spyrii's story will never grow wearisome.

Review: Heidi is, I think, the sort of read meant for two types of people- children under ten or eleven, and adults who read it when they were younger and are re-reading it in a nostalgic sort of way.  I am neither, but if I don't read it now, I'll probably never read it -I can't be a nostalgic adult reading it if I didn't read it as a kid. Hence, it is now or never. 

I had better say this before anything else: If you like disturbing books where everybody dies, then Heidi is definitely not for you.  Heidi is full of happy people, beautiful scenery, and happy people surrounded by beautiful scenery.  Nobody dies, and the height of sadness and/or depressing things is when  Heidi is homesick and then the doctor decides that it's best for her to be sent home again.  So if you're looking for death and gore and depressing things, you may as well not bother reading Heidi.  However, if you're in need of cheering up or you've just read too much depressing fiction, then you should. It's the sort of sugary-sweet book which leaves you all warm and smiley.

It's quite hard to describe the writing style.  It's quite straightforward-clearly written for kids- but at the same time full of descriptions.  The best way to put this is by saying that the descriptions are very simplistic, I guess.    The plot is much the same- it plods along in a quietly paced sort of way.

Heidi was the Pollyanna-esque little person that I expected her to be, and held few surprises.  I thought she was utterly charming anyway, and the sort of main character that I come across now and again and wish was my little sister (other recent ideal little-sister-protagonists include Mei in An Ocean Apart and Yotsuba in the Yotsubato manga series).  It made me quite happy that considering the book was set over three years or so, her dialogue matured as the book went on (it gets on my nerves when a book is set over a long period of time and the characters' voice never changes).
Clara was nice enough, but unlike Heidi, she didn't change.  And she didn't really act like she was 12/13, either.  I guess that characters in books need some big event or something to change them and for them to develop into more three-dimensional people.  Which Heidi lacked, alas.  

One thing I wasn't too keen on was the element of religion.  This is probably just because I'm not a Christian, but I wasn't expecting so much of it.  There's lots of prayer, redemption and morality.  Clara's Grandmamma teaches Heidi to trust in God, pray every night, and that everything will turn out okay if she does.  And when everything does, she puts it down to that fact.   I have nothing against religion-if Heidi and her companions  are Christians, that's fine with me-but as I was reading it, it just felt...hmm. I don't know if any other non-religious-type people might feel the same way.

In Three Words: sweet yet dissappointing.

Recommended for: 6-10 year olds, mostly, or adults who read it as a child.
Rating: 2.  Alas.

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