Paperback: 55 pages
Publisher: Smashwords (November 2012)
Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts
This treasured historical satire, played out in two very different socioeconomic worlds of 16th-century England, centers around the lives of two boys born in London on the same day: Edward, Prince of Wales and Tom Canty, a street beggar. During a chance encounter, the two realize they are identical and, as a lark, decide to exchange clothes and roles — a situation that briefly, but drastically, alters the lives of both youngsters. The Prince, dressed in rags, wanders about the city’s boisterous neighborhoods among the lower classes and endures a series of hardships; meanwhile, poor Tom, now living with the royals, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is.
Wow, that is a lot of classic for me in one year. For this challenge, I have decided to pick up something that I should have read when I was younger but did not.
The story of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER is familiar to me — then again, who is not familiar with this famous tale? — but this is the first time I am reading the book. There is a stark difference in hearing the story from someone else and reading its complex language by yourself. This is the first book I have ever read by Mark Twain and unfortunately, I did not enjoyed as much as I thought I would. Not that this book is bad, I have to admit that it was well-written and rather enjoyable; this book is just not my cup of tea.
It was pure coincidence that Edward, Prince of England and heir to the throne, met Tom Canty, beggar boy of London. Edward, having pity on the poor, dirty, abused Tom, takes him into the palace for some food and rest. While there, the boys discover that they both long for a taste of the other’s life, and decide to switch clothes to achieve that, if only for a little while. Events move so fast that Edward finds himself living the rough, dirty, miserable life of a London beggar, and Tom finds himself living the comfy, luxurious, pampered life of the Crown Prince of England.
The story was solid enough, but the book was tough to get into due to the English phrases and descriptions. By the time I reached Chapter 6, I had enough of reading the ‘thou’s and ‘thy’s, I was tempted to chuck the book aside. But as the events started unfolding the story became very enjoyable. I do have to admit that I was still very tempted to skip certain parts, though.
THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER may appear in the guise of a feeble children’s story, a tale of rags and riches set in Tudor England. Yet, the author has cleverly woven some deep personal and sociological messages for the readers to contemplate. The ‘poles apart’ worlds of Edward Tudor and Tom Canty transit before our eyes, allowing us to see the other side. It was really fascinating to learn about the Tudor court through the eyes of Tom and it was really heartbreaking to read about the gloomy, poor side of the city through the eyes of Edward.
I loved watching Edward learn and grow, while at the same time maintaining a sense of innocence and ignorance that is both charming and amusing. I felt Tom did not grow in terms of character throughout the story — well, as compared to Edward who was living on the tough streets of England, it was no surprise there is nothing for Tom to learn in the court — and eventually I got a little tired listening to him talk about the ladies and the wealth of the court. It felt a little weird favoring Edward over Tom when the story started with Tom and he was supposed to be the main character.
This book is a fascinating historical novel and an enchanting masterpiece but it is too bad that I struggled with the language and did not enjoyed it as much as I hoped to. A little sad to end 2015 this way (but hey, I managed to complete my reading challenge, hurrah!) but to end it with a classic, something that I do not read the year before, I guess it is good enough. I would recommend you to check this one out but for myself, it is time to put a stop on reading classics … for the time being, that is.