The Little Women Letters
by Gabrielle Donnelly
Published June 7th, 2011
by Simon & Schuster
Page Count: 368
Book Source: Publisher
Vibrant, fresh, and intelligent, The Little Women Letters explores the imagined lives of Jo March’s descendants—three sisters who are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly March. As uplifting and essential as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Gabrielle Donnelly’s novel will speak to anyone who’s ever fought with a sister, fallen in love with a fabulous pair of shoes, or wondered what on earth life had in store for her.
With her older sister, Emma, planning a wedding and her younger sister, Sophie, preparing to launch a career on the London stage, Lulu can’t help but feel like the failure of the Atwater family. Lulu loves her sisters dearly and wants nothing but the best for them, but she finds herself stuck in a rut, working dead-end jobs with no romantic prospects in sight. When her mother asks her to find a cache of old family recipes in the attic of her childhood home, Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. In her letters, Jo writes in detail about every aspect of her life: her older sister, Meg’s, new home and family; her younger sister Amy’s many admirers; Beth’s illness and the family’s shared grief over losing her too soon; and the butterflies she feels when she meets a handsome young German. As Lulu delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance, but can the words of her great-great-grandmother help Lulu find a place for herself in a world so different from the one Jo knew? Vibrant, fresh, and intelligent, The Little Women Letters explores the imagined lives of Jo March’s descendants—three sisters who are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly March.
As uplifting and essential as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Gabrielle Donnelly’s novel will speak to anyone who’s ever fought with a sister, fallen in love with a fabulous pair of shoes, or wondered what on earth life had in store for her.
Some things, of course, remain unchanged: the stories and jokes that form a family’s history, the laughter over tea in the afternoon, the desire to do the right thing in spite of obstacles. And above all, of course, the fierce, undying, and often infuriating bond of sisterhood that links the Atwater women every bit as firmly as it did the March sisters all those years ago. Both a loving tribute to Little Women and a wonderful contemporary family story, The Little Women Letters is a heartwarming, funny, and wise novel for today.
I have to confess something…I am a big fan of the original Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. When I was pregnant with my oldest child (my first and only daughter, to be followed by four boys) I really wanted to name her Jo because of Little Women. I thought Josephine was a bit heavy for a young girl, so chose the name Joelle instead, intending to call her Jo.Well, she turned out to be very feminine and Jo just doesn’t fit, but the fact that she was named for THE Jo illustrates what a huge fan I am of the original book.
When this book arrived with three others, I chose to read it first. The concept drew me in and I had to get started right away. But, I have to admit that it started off a little bit slow. I struggled to connect, at first, with the characters. But I continued on, determined to finish, and something amazing happened. Bit by bit, I came to love each character. Emma’s sensible nature, Lulu’s desire never to settle until she found what she loved, and Sophie’s enthusiasm for life drew me in. Fee, the Marmee figure, was a fun, independent mother who taught her girls to be strong, loving women. The women (all descendants of Jo March who knew very little of her life) resemble the three surviving sisters in Little Women, yet they have their own quirks and their stories don’t always follow the path you think.
I love the mix of modern day with letters from the past. We see more of the original March sisters through letters written by Jo to her sisters or Marmee. Lulu slowly learns the story of the March sisters through these letters (in this book, Little Women does not exist) and embraces her heritage.
My love for this book didn’t develop like a traditional romance. It took time. You know the kind I mean, right? Where you meet someone and he seems like and alright guy, but just not for you. The next time you see him to you notice his expressive eyes and friendly smile, but no sparks. A few days later you run into each other at the store and when he shakes your hand you get that butterfly feeling in your stomach and it takes you by surprise. Next thing you know you are sitting together at dinner discussing the future.
Do you need to have read Little Women to enjoy this book? Probably. You need to understand the characters of Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Marmee to see their connection with the Atwater women. That isn’t to say that someone who hasn’t read Little Women would dislike this book, but your enjoyment would not be the same. You won’t be mentally drawing parallels and contrasting the events that occurred in the original with the story in The Little Women Letters.
My Rating: 4.5 stars (yes, I know, I said it was slow to start but when I finished I sighed and though…”wow that was a great book)
Content: Clean, possibly mild cursing, but nothing I noticed
I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. No further compensation was received. Cover Image and synopsis from Goodreads.