Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Kate Douglas Wiggin

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Summary

Rebecca, the daughter of a large, poor family, is clever but willful. When her better-off aunts offer to raise and educate her older sister, they get Rebecca instead, who introduces a little unexpected tumult into their lives.

Review

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is one of those books that I always knew was around, growing up, but later couldn’t recall whether I’d read. As I got older, I tended to confuse it with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, which also wasn’t sure whether I’d read. I suppose that if I had read them, the distinction might have been clearer. In any case, the book didn’t ring any bells on this reading.

I’m sorry I didn’t (probably) read it when I was younger, since some of the prose is delightfully funny. There’s nothing greatly surprising about the plot – clever, wayward girl grows up smart and sweet – but the language itself was unexpected. It reminded me, in some ways, of Jane Austen’s wry, sly humor, though it also has similarities to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and that’s more the general territory of the book.

One reason I’d have preferred to read it young is that some of the elements haven’t worn as well as you might hope. While the book thankfully never spells it out, in its latter half it seems indubitably destined toward a resolution that was common and perhaps even sensible in its day, but looks awfully uncomfortable now. Still, it isn’t spelled out, so we’re free to imagine a more modern outlook if we like (and I did). Wiggin did apparently write a sequel of sorts (New Chronicles of Rebecca), that appears to fill in gaps in and around this book’s storyline, and happily doesn’t address the issue of my concern.

In short, somewhat dated, but a fun book for children, with a protagonist who’s lauded much more for cleverness than looks.

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