Book review

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)

Here's a charming story about a little prince who falls to earth from Asteroid B-612. What kind of little prince is he? He's a lonely little prince. He's in need of a friend, and so he sets off on a journey across the planets to see who he can find.

It's a trail of disappointment really. There's the absolute monarch, the conceited individual, the drunkard, and the businessman. They are all too wrapped up in their own affairs to consider being the little prince's friend:

'What are you doing here?' he said to the drunkard whom he found sitting silently in front of a collection of bottles, some empty and some full.
'I am drinking,' answered the drunkard lugubriously.
'Why are you drinking?' the little prince asked.
'In order to forget,' replied the drunkard.
'To forget what?' enquired the little prince, who was already feeling sorry for him.
'To forget that I am ashamed,' the drunkard confessed, hanging his head.
'Ashamed of what?' asked the little prince who wanted to help him.
'Ashamed of drinking!' concluded the drunkard, withdrawing into total silence.
And the little prince went away, puzzled.
'Grown-ups really are very, very odd,' he said to himself as he continued his journey.

But he meets a very special kind of grown-up when he finally lands on planet earth. Right in the middle of the desert is Antoine de Saint-Exupery who has crash-landed in his aeroplane. They seem to understand each other right away, as much from what isn't said as from what is said. They don't have very long together, for each of them must go back home in his own way. Antoine de Saint-Exupery can mend his aeroplane, but the little prince's home is much further away. He cannot take his body back with him. It is much too heavy. He finds his own way to travel back home with the help of the snake:

'Whomever I touch I send back to the earth from which they came ' ...

But before the prince and the airman part they learn to share a lot of simple joys together, like the pleasure of looking at a single flower, or taking a drink of water when you are really thirsty:

'The men where you live,' said the little prince, 'grow five thousand roses in the same garden ... and they do not find what they are looking for ...'
'They do not find it,' I replied.
'And yet, what they are looking for could be found in a single rose or in a little water.'
'Yes, indeed,' I replied.
And the little prince added: 'But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.'

There are many ways to read this book. You can take it as a straight-forward story about a charming little prince who wants a friend, or you can think more deeply about the way the little prince chooses to live his life. It's a very sad story, too.

What can I read next?

If you are a younger reader and have enjoyed The Little Prince you might like to look at this one next by Frances Hodgson Burnett:

If you are an older reader and have enjoyed The Little Prince, perhaps the best author to follow up with is David Almond:

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