Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Title: The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Genre: Literature
First published: 1943
Pages: 108

Rating: 8 out of 10

This is one of those books I never read as a child. Many childhood classics are never the same when you read them as an adult, and you think to yourself "If only I read this when I was 10!" Thankfully, The Little Prince does not fit into this category. It can be, and should be, read by anyone of any age.

It is the story of a little prince who lives on a tiny asteroid in space. He cares for his little world diligently, making sure that no destructive baobob seeds take root, cleaning his volcanoes (even the extinct one - you never know), and tending to his beloved flower. The prince falls in love with the flower, and his feelings prompt him to embark on a journey to discover the meaning of life. In his travels, he meets a king who orders the stars to shine so that he can take credit for this, a man who loves compliments, a "Tippler" who drinks away his memories of shameful drinking, a businessman who counts stars, a lamplighter trapped in a futile circle of daily events, and a geographer who makes maps but never gets up from his desk.
After meeting all of these individuals, the prince marvels at how strange adults are.
He then travels to Earth, where he meets a poisonous snake, a fox that he tames, and a bush full of roses. The prince is dismayed to learn that his lovely flower is actually just a common rose, but the tamed fox teaches him that the prince's love for her is what makes his rose special.

I absolutely loved this little book, so much so that I was very surprised at it.
The writing is wise in a child-like manner of simple logic, and beautiful. The philosophical elements of this book are easy to recognize, but never overbearing, and put in such simple terms that a young child could read this book and understand them.

It reads much as a dream-like, hazy fairytale with a wishful, whimsical atmosphere to it. Predicaments such as how exactly the prince came to be on the asteroid all alone, or how exactly he travels from asteroid to asteroid, are not explained to us. Rather than give the reader a sense of how unrealistic the story is, it only serves to further the dream-like feeling of the book.

The ending was sad, and may be a heavy subject for younger readers. We never get to see if the prince's sacrifice for his flower has worked, because we are left back on Earth, gazing up at the night sky at the end of the book. The narrator tells us to wonder, whenever we look into space, about the little prince. We truly get the bittersweet sense that the prince has left us, and this world, behind in order to return to his beloved flower, and that we wish him all the best.

This was an insightful, beautiful little gem of a book that I am glad not to have missed, no matter what age I am. Highly recommended - to anyone!