Heidi by Johanna Spyri

I have always loved this book, but am not getting the same enjoyment out of it that I did when I was a child. I still love the story, only now I can see how cheesy it is. I don't want to see it, but it is rather glaring.

Still it's a lovely story of a little girl who is sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.  She's a storybook girl so she has no problem adapting to this huge change in her life. Her aunt, the only mother she has ever known, drops her off at the cabin of the somewhat grumpy old man, and leaves for a new job. Heidi makes friends immediately; she loves everyone and everyone loves her for her sweetness and innocence.

Her happy days in the mountains end abruptly when she is sent to Frankfurt to be a companion for the sickly daughter of a rich man. Heidi  doesn't adapt so well to this change.  She becomes fast friends with the sick girl, Clara, but finds life in the city stifling. Her life is much more structured in this grand house and she doesn't get the fresh air and exercise she's used to. In addition to that, not all of the staff find her tendency to be disruptive amusing and they are rather hard on her. She begins to decline until the Doctor says she must return home to get well.

Back in the mountains Heidi returns to the life she loves and regains her health. After a time, Clara and her grandmother come to visit. Clara also begins to get better in the mountain air and soon she is out of her wheelchair and walking. My skepticism says it's a bit ridiculous that she is healed simply with fresh air and goat's milk. Their daily diet is bread and cheese. No vegetables, very little fruit if any. Wouldn't they all end up with scurvy or something?  But, common sense must be suspended for awhile to really enjoy children's stories, so suspend it. I do and choose to believe that Clara is healed. And that Heidi really is that rare small child who is so full of wisdom that everyone who comes in contact with her is changed for the better.

It's not great literature, but I love it. Sometimes it's nice to read something that ends with all being right with the world. And sometimes it's just nice to read something wholesome. Such an old fashioned concept now, but sweet and lovely to find in a story for children.

I think Heidi is a wonderful book. If you've never read it, do indulge yourself. You'll find it a breath of fresh air in our often somewhat-less-than-wholesome society.


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