Book Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Last June I mixed things up a bit by reviewing The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, so this June I decided to go the same route and review The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Anyone who took French in high school, like Suzanne and I did, might be familiar with The Little Prince as I’m pretty sure it is required reading for all high school French students.  While high school was a little bit farther back for me than I like to admit, The Little Prince is a book that I have reread many times since then.  It is one of those stories that resonates differently every time that you read it. The Little Prince is considered a classic and has been translated into over 300 languages.

Written in 1942 Saint-Exupery wrote the story while he was living in New York. Saint-Exupery who was also a pilot in France traveled to the United States at the end of 1940 to try to persuade the US government to join the war against Germany.  He spent 27 months in the US and during this time he wrote the The Little Prince as a children’s book, as well as two other books. He resumed flying for the Free French Air Force when he returned to France and on July 31, 1944, he disappeared while flying a mission.  It is thought that parts of The Little Prince were inspired by a plane crash that Saint-Exupery and his navigator survived in 1935, when their plane crashed in the Libyan desert, and they were stranded for four days.

The Little Prince is a story about a pilot whose plane breaks down in the Sahara Desert.  While he is trying to fix his plane, he meets the Little Prince who had come to Earth looking for a friend. The first thing the Little Prince asks is that the pilot draw him a sheep that he can take back home with him. The pilot eventually learns that the Little Prince is from an asteroid not much bigger than a house, he loved watching the sunset and a quite demanding rose.  To escape the rose he left his asteroid and began quite a journey. On this journey he met a king who wanted to rule over everything, a conceited man who wanted the prince to admire him, a drinker that drank to forget that he drank too much, a businessman who counted the stars that he thought he owned, a lamplighter who lived on a planet so small that he had to continuously light and put out the street light and a geographer that depended on explorers for his information.  When the Little Prince makes it to Earth he meets a snake, a fox, a railway switchman, a merchant, and the pilot.  He also finds a garden of roses where he learns that his rose is not as unique as he had originally thought. With each encounter, until meeting the pilot, that the Little Prince has he concludes that adults and children see the world in very different ways.  I’m not going to give away the end of the story here, but I will say that there are many different interpretations for the meaning of the end of the story.  Of course, in my opinion that is the wonderful thing about books and especially books like The Little Prince, as a reader you are able to interpret the story in any way that you want or need to at any given time.

In the most simplistic review, one could say that The Little Prince is about seeing the world through the eyes of a child. I would say that is a good place to start.  For me The Little Prince is a book about friendship and compassion.  It is a book about perspective and remembering that life is all about how you perceive things.  It is a book that reminds us that sometimes life is hard or sad, but even then, we can find beauty in a single rose, contentment in watching a sunset and wonderment when we look at the stars.

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