There, I bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? I’m betting you can think of another 6… 8… 10 books with hygge in the title that I haven’t reviewed yet. And you’re right, but I have a confession to make. This weekend I (whisper it quietly) didn’t read anything at all. Despite the fact that we spent Sunday in the Welsh Capital of Second Hand Books (Hay-on-Wye), I barely had time to sip my vanilla tea let alone open a book and read it. So my hygge book this week had to be something I could write about without the need to actually read it all the way through. I can justify my choice (you knew I could) and this is it;
Hygge is not tied up in books that have hygge in the title. It is not exclusively shown by Danes with impossible blond hair or cooks with more kladdkaka than common sense, it’s not even exclusively for the desperate writers who put out 99p books on Kindle without proper proof-reading so that the commas and apostrophes look like two sides of a bloody battle fought over the page. It’s something that has been in books for as long as books realised they had the power to alter people’s emotions. As long as a sigh, or a smile or a laugh was winnable, then somebody somewhere put hyggely moments into the books.
And A Little Princess has quite a few.
For example, there is a fantastic example of hygge at the very start of the book, when Sara’s father is dropping her off at Miss Minchin’s Academy for Young Ladies and Sara is snuggled up against him, saying goodbye;
Sara sat on his knee and held the lapels of his coat in her small hands, and looked long and hard at his face.
“Are you learning me by heart, little Sara?” he said, stroking her hair.
“No,” she answered. “I know you by heart.You are inside my heart.” And they put their arms around each other and kissed as if they would never let each other go.
Yes, I know the father is leaving, and it’s quite(very) sad, but for a moment… just a moment… the characters let the world go hang. They are together and they love each other and that is enough.
Surely that is hygge? The ability to just be in the moment, with the one you love most?
A Little Princess has been one of my go-to comfort reads for years, probably since I first met it aged 10. The idea that the little girl suffers so much but through it all is quiet, thoughtful, clever. She was one of my childhood heroes, for her bravery and willingness to stand up and do what is right. I learned a lot about shaping the reality of my life through my thoughts from her. In the middle of deprivation, she uses her imagination to see beyond, to make a shelter, to hygge. And she asks the Universe to give her what she needs.
In the attic with the maidservant, Betsy, she has little but crumbs to live on, but she makes a feast out of it. Read her description of what the attic could be, and indulge in the hygge nook fantasy:
She was walking around the small place, holding Lottie’s hand and making gestures which described all the beauties she was making herself see. She quite made Lottie see them, too. Lottie could always believe in the things Sara made pictures of.
“You see,” she said, “there could be a thick, soft blue Indian rug on the floor; and in that corner there could be a soft little sofa, with cushions to curl up on; and just over it could be a shelf full of books so that one could reach them easily; and there could be a fur rug before the fire, and hangings on the wall to cover up the whitewash and pictures. They would have to be little ones, but they could be beautiful; and there could be a lamp with a deep rose-coloured shade; and a table in the middle, with things to have tea with; and a little fat copper kettle singing on the hob; and the bed could be quite different. It could be made soft and covered with a lovely silk coverlet. It could be beautiful. And perhaps we could coax the sparrows until we made such friends with them that they would come and peck at the window and ask to be let in.”
Who wouldn’t want to be in that room! And this room, remember, is no bigger than many a bedsit in London. A lesson for some who say you can’t hygge in London…
And when the magic does happen.. and the fire is real, not imaginary, with sausages to cook and shawls and slippers to warm her feet… well, Sara practises hygge as naturally as breathing. She calls her friend in and the two of them eat well;
The sleepy comfort, which at length almost overpowered them was a heavenly thing. It was the drowsiness of happy, well-fed childhood, and they sat in the fire glow and luxuriated in it…
Eating, sleeping and snuggling by the fire with a friend; there’s hygge.
If you’ve never read the book, and even if you’ve seen the film, then it’s a lovely book to read. It should be preachy and teach long lessons about putting up with hardships, but the book doesn’t. The descriptions of the interiors are beautifully done, and evoke a cosiness that encourages hygge. I’ve read it more times than I can count… and even today flicking through to find the quotes I knew I needed I found other, softer, different points that I missed as a child and now understand so much better. It’s a great read for a cold, wet day when you have your tea and toasted cheese but no companion. #bookhygge that’s what I call it, when there’s just you and an author (plus cast of characters) to enjoy a relaxing moment. A Little Princess is pure #bookhygge.
**I should also say that the Puffin in Bloom edition is my favourite version of the book. With a solid hardback cover and such beautiful colours designed to evoke the colours of India, it’s a lovely present to give or keep. I bought myself one as a souvenir when I won The Chase.**
If you like what you read, please share the link on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media.
And if you’d like to join me in my hyggequest, then if you love to hygge and want a place on the net, try The Hygge Nook on Facebook. It’s a group dedicated to recognising and recording the hyggely moments of life.
If you want to connect more with me (thank you x) then find me on How to Hygge the British Way on Facebook, as @AngelKneale on Twitter and as British Hygge Jem on Instagram. I’m happyto make new friends to add to the oldies but goodies I have already!