by Johanna Spyri
I remember reading Heidi as a girl and really liking it, though I couldn’t remember quite how it ended and what exactly happened (yes, a common theme for me, which is why I started this blog). My book club was reading it, so I was very excited to reread it. True to my memory, I loved this book all over again. It is a very simple story with morals and heartwarming events. Heidi goes through ups and downs and you ride them right along with her. There are strong religious themes throughout the book, which is nice to read. Sometimes it was a little much for me, so I skimmed a bit, but it doesn’t take away from the book by any means. It is refreshing to read a novel that is sweet and uplifting. Another theme that I absolutely loved was the power and importance of learning, specifically for reading. I am an advocate for education and the power of reading, so I loved this theme. The Grandmother in the story says to Heidi, “You see that picture with the shepherd and the animals – well, as soon as you are able to read you shall have that book for your own, and then you will know all about the sheep and the goats, and what the shepherd did, and the wonderful things that happened to him, just as if some one were telling you the whole tale.” She encourages Heidi to learn and is instrumental in helping Heidi become educated.
Heidi is an orphan girl who is staying with her aunt. However, her aunt gets a job and must leave Heidi with her reclusive Grandfather on the top of a mountain. Heidi is a cheerful, loving little girl and immediately adapts to her Grandfather’s simple, quiet life and falls in love with him, his cottage, and his goats. Heidi’s aunt feels horribly guilty, so unbeknownst to Heidi or her Grandfather, she agrees to place Heidi in the home of a wealthy man and his daughter, Clara. Clara is a cripple and needs companionship. When Heidi first moves in with them she is heartbroken (having just been torn from her Grandfather), but she does her best to be good and soon becomes friends with Clara. During this time, Heidi meets Clara’s Grandmother, who encourages Heidi to learn and read and trust in God when she is sad. Spoilers: Heidi’s depression deepens and she becomes weaker and weaker. After a scary episode of sleepwalking, the family doctor is called and he diagnoses homesickness, recommending that Heidi return to her Grandfather as soon as possible. Clara is heartbroken, but her father realizes the harm that has come to Heidi and personally takes her home. So Heidi returns home and is beyond happy. After a little while it’s arranged for Clara to journey up and stay with Heidi. She is weak, so it is quite the endeavor to bring her up in her wheelchair, but they do it. Peter, the shepherd boy for the Grandfather’s goats and good friend of Heidi’s, is very jealous of Heidi and Clara’s relationship so he maliciously wreaks Clara’s wheelchair. It all gets discovered when his conscience can no longer bear it. Happily it all works out because Heidi is forgiving and Clara (thanks to the fresh mountain air) recovers her strength and learns to walk again. It is a very happy ending, which was a little schmaltzy for me, even though I like happy endings.
Summing it up: this is a sweet, beautiful story that I definitely recommend!
All the best, Abbey