Book Review: Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The last six months I have been re-reading my favorite books from my childhood. It has been a wonderful stroll through my youthful memories and, because I read most of these books to my children, I’m remembering those times as well. I recommend the practice to anyone with fond recollection of childhood books.
I want to share Heidi with you. Here is the cover I remember from my childhood and the copy I bought this year. What a difference in the covers but, good news, the story is still the same.
This is the story of a little orphaned girl, Heidi, who has been raised by her Aunt Detie. As the story opens Heidi and Aunt Detie are on their way up to the top of a Swiss mountain. Heidi must now live with her grandfather. Aunt Detie can no longer take care of her as she has a job with an important family in Frankfurt.
At five-years-old Heidi is a bubbly and kind little girl. It doesn’t bother her that Grandfather is grumpy and not liked in the village or that he lives in a hut and there is no extra bed or chair for her. This spirited little girl wins him over. She also makes friends with Peter, the boy who takes care of the goats and with Grannie, a blind neighbor.
Heidi and Grandfather settle in and make it a happy and pleasant home in the Alps. They become very attached to each other. It’s been two years but one day Aunt Detie shows up with a new plan.
Detie takes Heidi back with her for a “visit” to Frankfurt. She has secured a place for Heidi as a companion to the invalid daughter of a very rich man. Clara is confined to a wheelchair, is taught by a private tutor, but she has no friends her age. Heidi is just what Clara needs.
On this year long visit Heidi learns to read and write. She looks forward to the day she can read to Grannie. Although Heidi and Clara are good friends, Heidi is very homesick. Her health begins to fail and Clara’s doctor suggests she return to the Alps.
Once back in the Alps Heidi gains back her health, she teaches Peter to read and write. Grandfather is reconciled with the people in the village, and Clara comes for a visit. Yes, things turn out okay and everyone lives happily ever after. This is probably where I first started my love for the happily-ever-after stories.
About the author: Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) was born in a Swiss village overlooking the Lake of Zurich and with stunning views of the Alps. Johanna’s father was the local doctor and their home was the centre of cultural activity and the root of her love of books. Johanna lived in Zurich and stayed on after her marriage and for the rest of her life. Although Johanna’s childhood was happy she faced great sadness when her only son died at the age of twenty-nine and her husband died the same year. Heidi is often thought to be Johanna Spyri’s first book but she had in fact already written widely for both children and adults. Heidi became so famous that everything else was forgotten. It was translated into English soon after it was first published in 1880.
I read Heidi for the Childhood Favourites Reading Challenge. One more book (Little Women) to go before the June 21st deadline. I make it. I saved the best for last.