Mistress Masham’s Repose
by T.H. White, Fritz Eichenberg (Illustrator)
4 out of 5 stars
Rereading it for the second or third time, I have enjoyed it just as much as the first time.
Orphaned Maria lives in a crumbling old palace that her ancestors built on an extensive estate full of gardens and obelisks and temples and monuments. But there is no money to repair the palace, and she lives in poverty with her governess and one old cook.
When Maria is exploring around an island in a small lake, she encounters the tiny Lilliputian people who Gulliver brought back to England after his travels. They are in danger of being discovered by Maria’s evil guardians, the vicar and governess, and Maria must use all her ingenuity to save them from being kidnapped and sold as slaves.
I love how imaginative this book is. My favorite parts are the scenes that describe how the Lilliputians make their living on the Mistress Masham’s Repose island. They fish, and hunt, and train mice as their horses. They have their little homes in the roofs and hollow pillars of the Repose cupola, and keep their tiny farm animals in stables built into the steps of the structure.
Maria is an interesting character with a complex personality for a child. She has moments of immaturity, but she learns from her mistakes and strives to do better. She is really a strong little person for such a young girl of only ten-years-old with the fate of an entire nation of people resting on her shoulders. She is cunning and determined and stubborn. I just love her!
All the supporting characters are vivid and larger than life. The cook, the vicar, the governess, the constable, and lord lieutenant are all hilarious and interesting characters, but my favorite of all the supporting cast is the old professor who befriends Maria. He is scatter-brained and intelligent and philosophical. If you can get his attention, he will give you wise advice, but most of the time his thoughts are lost in ancient texts and archaic etymology.
I like the writing style, and the humor of the prose. But there are some times when the author takes the joke a little too far, and just keeps telling the same punch line again and again until it gets annoying. But those times are few and far between.