The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
The Ordinary Princess is M.M. Kaye’s only children’s book. It is the story of a baby princess who is given the gift of ordinariness by a fairy. When she grows up, she is not as beautiful as her sisters and she is not courted by princes, but she is her own person. She bravely leaves the castle, and while living the life of an ordinary citizen, she finds true love.
The Ordinary Princess is a sweet story told in fairy-tale fashion. I really like it, but I have two minor complaints. First, though I applaud the message that it’s OK to be ordinary in appearance, the story is about finding love, and it implies a value being placed on the princess’s ability to make a good marriage match. It’s not that such an idea is unusual, but that I think Kaye missed an opportunity to demonstrate true female independence. I also have to reprimand the publishers for the front cover, because in this horrible illustration, the girl is not only way too young, but she’s beyond awkward. It is thoroughly unappealing. Had I depended solely on the cover as my guide in purchasing this book, there’s no way I would have bought it. Lucky for the publisher, I’m easily persuaded by online reviews.
While researching the author, I discovered another one of her books—The Sun in the Morning—which I borrowed from the library. It is the first book of her three-book autobiography.
The Sun in the Morning: My Early Years in India and England by M.M. Kaye
In The Sun in the Morning, the author tells the story of her early years in India at the beginning of the 20th century and a few years she spent in England after WWI. It is a fascinating read. From the foothills of the Himalayas to the plains where New Delhi had only just begun to be built, she weaves an amazing tale of parties, dances, secret hiding places, ghosts, the flu epidemic of 1918, crocodile hunts, and more. It took me a long time to get through it, but I was time well spent.
Kaye paints a very pretty picture of India under the rule of the British Empire. Some of her overwhelmingly positive view is probably due to her innocence (she was a child at the time), and some of it is probably intentionally glossed, but much of it strikes the tone of truth. Nothing is ever perfectly good or perfectly bad, and I’m inclined to believe her when she says there was a lot of good in that situation.
The only reason this book didn’t get an A+ is that it falters at the very beginning when she gives some (initially) boring family background, and again at the end when she moves to England. She was not nearly as happy in England, and it feels like she didn’t put as much effort into describing that part of her life. Still, the stories in-between more than make up for it.
I liked this book enough to order a used copy for my personal library. Someday I will read it again. I am also going to add The Far Pavilions (the author’s most famous novel), Death in the Andamans (one of her mysteries, which have been compared favorably to Christie’s), and Golden Afternoon (Part 2 of her autobiography) to my list of books to read someday.