Book reviews

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It’s been a long time since I’ve read (or re-read) Little Women or Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, but as a child I read these stories over and over. The cover is falling off my copy of Little Women and the feel of the book in my hands is familiar. I don’t think I could recite the actual words but the stories are deeply embedded in my memory.

I found Jo’s Boys at the library and opened it up out of nostalgia, only to realise I couldn’t remember what happened in this continuation of the March family, probably because I never owned a copy of this book myself.

I’ll start by saying that I didn’t like the picture on the cover of the edition I read (pictured above) because, although Impressionism was in its’ heyday when Jo’s Boys was published, the painting seems too pale and gentle to me to truly reflect characters who live their lives to the fullest, adventuring and frolicking and finding their way in the world.

The story begins by bringing us up to date with Mrs Jo and her Professor, Laurie and Mrs Amy, Mrs Meg and their families, as well as the boys who grew up at Plumfield. Tommy Bangs is still unsuccessfully chasing Nan, wild Dan has not been tamed, beautiful Bess is now a budding artist, Daisy sews and knits, Nat fiddles and Demi writes. Franz has returned to Germany to take a bride and Emil has gone to sea. Josie, who I couldn’t remember at all, is a budding actress. Young Rob and Teddy, Jo and Professor Bhaer’s sons, are loved by all. Some of the smaller characters from previous books make short appearances too, but this story concentrates on the better-loved characters from Little Men.

Following a get-together at Plumfield, which is now a thriving college after a bequest from Mr Lawrence senior, the young men scatter around the world to gain the experiences which will turn them into the people they will be for the rest of their lives.

I found Jo’s Boys preachier and more sentimental than I remembered. Characters constantly lectured other characters about their faults in an attempt to improve the other person, while others freely admitted and rued their failings. Sinners were forgiven and lessons learned and all went on with the intention of doing better in future. The moral lessons in Jo’s Boys were given with a much heavier-hand than in Little Women.

I enjoyed finding out what happened to everyone, but Jo’s Boys will never replace Little Women in my heart.

 

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Comments on: "Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott" (15)

  1. I re-read Little Women a year or so back, fully intending to go and re-read the rest of the quartet. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I last had the urge to re-read Little Women after reading March by Geraldine Brooks, which I hated! I think I wanted to remove the idea of Mr March at the war from my head…

  3. What did you not like about March, Rose? The subject matter, the writing?

  4. I loved the first three books but was never so keen on this one, though it’s so long since I read it I can’t really remember why. I re-read Little Women, Good Wives and Little Men constantly throughout my teens but I never found I wanted to re-read this one. And now I’m frightened to re-read any of them in case they don’t live up to my memories…

  5. Hi Sandra, I didn’t feel that Mr March or Marmee’s characters were true to the characters in Little Women. He was sanctimonious and Marmee was so horrible she was unrecognisable. Both were all too-human.
    The faces they showed in March isn’t the one their children (or Little Women’s readers), believed in and loved, or tried to emulate.
    I don’t remember disliking the writing or the idea, just the actual characters.

  6. So many readers have such happy memories of reading these books during their childhood and teens ๐Ÿ™‚ I was put off a re-read after reading March which I disliked, but it has been long enough now that I have mostly forgotten that story.
    Perhaps we should all watch a movie version to ease into a re-read? It’s a long time since I’ve seen the version with Elizabeth Taylor as Beth…

  7. Have you seen the most recent version? TV mini series, well-regarded on IMDB. I liked it ๐Ÿ™‚

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6853528/

  8. Oh that does sound disappointing, Rose. And having read a few reviews, I see that you’re not alone in finding that reading March has spoiled Little Women for you. I’m still slightly tempted – it’s a Pulitzer winner and my curiosity is piqued. Maybe, since I’ll be prepared for what I find of the characters, it won’t be quite such a shock in that regard. (And with the length of my tbr it will take me years to get to it anyway!)

  9. No, but I think I will now that youโ€™ve told me about it! Looking forward to a day on the couch ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Well, plenty of other people loved the book too and you might be one of them ๐Ÿ™‚
    How long is your TBR, and are you very rigid about sticking to the order?

  11. ๐Ÿ‘ Perfect winter viewing! And different enough from the older versions to make it worth a look. Hope you enjoy it!

  12. I have lists on amazon, on an excel sheet and samples on the Kindle – I daren’t total them up; it would be too dispiriting! I don’t read in order. I’ve tried getting the many places into a semblance of order without success and decided it wastes valuable reading time! ๐Ÿ˜‚ So some books just leap to the top because I hear about them at the right time – Finding Colin Firth was one of those (which was great fun btw, thank you!). Others sit there patiently waiting… and waiting…. There’s never enough time of course ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Iโ€™ll let you know. I see Angela Lansbury is Aunt March, havenโ€™t heard of anyone else in the cast.

  14. Emily Watson, who plays Marmee, is a very respected actress over here and does a good job in the role. The girls are all newcomers. They are different versions of the four girls – more modern I suppose. I had my doubts initially but I warmed to the series quite quickly. Do let me know!

  15. There is loads of pleasure in making lists though! If you donโ€™t read some when they leap out at you then you never will. Glad you enjoyed Finding Colin Firth, it was fun. You know from the title it will be exactly the type of book to read out in the sun with a big hat on!

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