Image Credit: Birdy
In this world full of cares, it feels so good when you come across a book that lets your mind just float in unthinking pleasantness. That is precisely the feeling I had when I was reading Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi.” A Swiss classic, long translated into English, Heidi has been a children’s favorite through the years. As the book jacket says –
“Heidi is only five when she is taken to live with her grandfather, known as Uncle Alp, in the Swiss mountains. Notorious in the village for his gloomy outlook and reclusive nature, Uncle Alp nevertheless comes to love little Heidi, and she him. Heidi is growing fond of her new mountain family and friends when she is suddenly taken to Frankfurt to be a companion to Clara, an invalid. Although she brings great joy into Clara’s life, Heidi pines for her home in the mountains. This classic story lyrically evokes a young child’s understanding of poverty and wealth, illness and happiness, despair and hope.”
And I agree with the last line completely. Heidi is a precocious child who perceives the tone and every fleeting shadow on the faces of people around her. It is heartbreaking when her naturally joyous nature is clipped when she is brought to the city to live in Clara’s home under the strict eyes of Ms Rottenmeier. One of the most poignant points in the book occurs when Heidi is caught stealing rolls and storing them in the cupboard for Peter’s Grannie who is very poor and cannot afford them.
“Heidi threw herself down beside Clara’s chair and began to cry bitterly. ‘Now Grannie won’t get any nice white bread,’ she sobbed. ‘The rolls were all for her and now they’re going to be thrown away.’”
Even more endearing is Heidi's complete innocence and trust that only a child is capable of. When Clara's Grandmamma encourages Heidi to pray to God and unburden her troubles to him she follows it to the t. And when she finally gets to go back to her grandfather, she totally believes that it's because she followed Grandmamma's instructions. From then on, Heidi prays everyday before going to bed.
The novel is based quite a lot on Spyri’s own experiences and perhaps that honesty and clarity is what makes the book so endearing. I wish life were as simple as it was for Heidi whose mornings were greeted with a glass of fresh milk, then spending the day roaming the mountain with Peter and his goats, returning in the evening for dinner, chatting to grandfather and sleeping on the hayloft with a window showing clusters of stars. Of course, she goes to school too when she becomes a bit older. But life by itself is uncomplicated for Heidi who sees only the good in people and her innate cheerfulness is uplifting. She definitely lifted my spirits.
Verdict: Read this one as a stressbuster for guaranteed results.