Thursday, December 19, 2019

Book Review: ANNIE

Title: Annie
Author: Leonore Fleischer, Carol Sobieski
Publisher: Ballentine Books
Pages: 192
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

The novel by Leonore Fleischer is based on the screenplay of the 1982 film by Carol Sobieski. I had watched the film as a young kid. I had a mop of curly hair then and imagined that I was some kind of an Annie myself.

Annie is one of 60 orphans at the Hudson Street Home for Girls. The keeper, Miss Hannigan, is mean and mistreats the girls, reserving all her love for her gin. But Annie is unperturbed. She has a Dream that someday her parents will return to fetch her. They will claim her and the proof of recognition will be the halves of a locket they and she have.

When she is invited to live with billionaire Oliver Warbucks for a week as part of a PR exercise to make him appear human, she quickly endears herself not only to the staff members and Grace Farrill, Warbucks’ secretary, but also to Warbucks himself.

So much so that that Warbucks even wants to adopt her. But Annie won’t have it. She still pines for her parents. To fulfill her dream, Warbucks offers the windfall of $50,000, a bumper amount, to the parents. But will Annie find her loving parents or is there foul play in store for her?

What I liked about the book, apart from the rags-to-riches story, was the historical, political and social context that made the story real. Set in 1933 at the height of the Depression, preceded by a time when everybody was having a wonderful time, doing the Charleston on the brink of a volcano.

The writing was indulgent towards all the characters, even the villainous ones, even in the midst of the caricaturing. There was a generous dose of sensitivity and humour.

The world of communications, we are interested to observe, is just about opening up, and radio is hugely popular.

The introduction of Sandy, the dog, and his first, in hindsight, fortuitous, meeting with Annie is beautiful.

The author paints such a realistic picture of life during that time, complete with the action on the street in New York.

Of course, in keeping with the times, Asp and Punjab are created with the greatest excesses of ostentation, complete with mystique and magic, but they fit in the luxurious world of the billionaire.

There’s even a chapter devoted to Warbucks and Annie’s meeting with President Roosevelt, which allows us to see a marvelous invention, the helicopter, in action. It is an invention which will play a crucial role later on in a thrilling rescue sequence.

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