What wikipedia says about this enchantingly poetic little book sounds very dry: "The White People was a novella written in World War I by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which details her beliefs on what happens after death."
Well, yes, that's true. But there is so much more to "The White People" than that.
It is a short book that won't take you more than a few hours to read, and read it you should; it is so beautiful.
Of course, it was yet another free ebook I found at Amazon's kindle store, and came without illustrations. But when I was doing my usual bit of research to write this review, I came across the above picture of a book cover containing two novellas, and the illustration is from "The White People".
Young Ysobel grows up the chieftainness of an ancient clan in the Highlands, at the ancestral home, a castle on the moor. She is a lonely child, an orphan, not very pretty, and not very interesting to her relatives, who hardly come visiting because she lives so far away from all the comforts they like to surround themselves with in London.
Her faithful companions are the castle's librarian and her nursemaid. They make sure Ysobel has plenty to read and gets out on the moor every day, rain or shine.
It is there that Ysobel one day meets Wee Brown Elspeth, a girl roughly her age, who becomes her playmate for years.
As Ysobel herself (she tells the story "in her own words") says, "Anything might happen on the moor - anything."
For shyness and lacking of superficial topics for conversation, the girl usually keeps quiet when in company, and rather sticks to observing people than talking to them. It is through her careful observation that she first notices the kind of people she calls the White People. They have very fair hair and skin of an almost translucent quality. In almost every larger group of people, she sees at least one of them, but being her usual private self, she never talks to one of them.
While travelling down south to visit some relatives (she is, after all, a heiress, and her relatives feel obliged to see her every now and then), a grieving lady with her little daughter share the compartment on the train with her. The daughter is one of the White People, and smiles at Ysobel before getting off the train with her mother.
A gentleman who has been sitting opposite Ysobel and seemed to look on in a friendly manner turns out to be a famous author whose books the girl has loved from when she was able to read. They meet again at her relatives' place, and strike up a friendship closer than any what the girl had experienced so far.
The gentleman's invitation shows what kind of person he is, when he says:
"Will you come to tea under the big apple-tree some afternoon when the late shadows are like velvet on the grass?"
Ysobel does indeed go to tea under the big apple-tree with the author and his mother. They are the first ones she ever talks to about the White People, and for a very special reason.
As I said, this is a wonderfully poetic novella; I like the characters, the language, the scenery and the story.
It is not my first and won't be my last read by Frances Hodgson Burnett; this is the fourth of her books that I have read since starting to post reviews on here, and so far, I was disappointed only once. You can find the other reviews by typing "Burnett" into the search bar at the top left corner of this page.