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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly


Do you have sisters? I have two sisters and two step-sisters. Do you love Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? I do. Well in The Little Women Letters, Gabrielle Donnelly tells the story of Jo March's three great-great-granddaughters, living in contemporary London and dealing with many of the same issues that Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy did.

Emma, the oldest, is the sensible, organized, budget-minded one and is planning her wedding to wonderful Matthew. Lulu, the middle sister, is at a loss with what to do with her life professionally, as well as not really clicking with any men lately. Sophie, the youngest, is a bubbly, pretty, flaky, aspiring actress. We follow them and their mother Fee - which is short for Josephine, which is also Emma's first name - and father David, along with Lulu's best friend Charlie (a girl) who is beautiful, nice and rich (if only we all had such best friends) as they prepare for the wedding. The main character is mostly Lulu, but the point of view does shift as well sometimes to Sophie and Emma (I actually wish Ms. Donnelly had committed to Lulu and told the whole book from her point of view) who have their own, albeit less fraught, issues as well. But Lulu is really stressed by her lack of direction (and her family's well-meaning constant needling doesn't help) and while looking for something in the attic for her mother, she runs across a collection of letters from her great-great-grandmother Jo March to her sisters Meg, Amy, and Beth in the 1860s. Lulu finds solace in Jo's travails and speed bumps, knowing that Jo found direction and love.

The book was a tad sweet for me. It's basically the 2011 version of 1990s chick-lit but without a pink cover and with parents added in (which does make it unique.) But I found it unrealistic. All three girls are in their 20s (27, 25, 22) and all still live in town (of me and my 6 siblings, only 2 live in our hometown and both have not always lived there since college - they both moved back later), all still eat dinner with their parents regularly, talk all the time, never have secrets from each other, and I don't know why Lulu at 24-25 needs to have her entire life figured out. She's not exactly over the hill or anything. It's also okay if women aren't all romantically paired off by their mid-20s, but this book went with the usual tropes where at the end everyone must have careers on track, romance sorted, and be completely on track with no more speed bumps in the future. That said, if you're looking for a light, fun book with a happy ending, The Little Women Letters is sweet and endearing.

I got this book (an ARC) as a gift from a friend who works at an independent bookstore.

1 comment:

Booksnyc said...

I love Little Women and was looking forward to this one - sorry to hear its a little saccharine. After spending a week with my fam over Christmas, it does seem unrealistic that this family has dinner regularly, no secrets etc! Not sure whether that says something about the book or my crazy family!