Book: The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
Publisher: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 2011
Source: I picked up this book from the swag table at the Book Blogger Convention on May 27. Today is its release date — I thought it would be fun to post my review on the book’s birthday.
Summary: In the world of The Little Women Letters, the little women are not beloved literary characters. Instead, they are the foremothers in the family history of three sisters. To Emma, Lulu, and Sophie, the little women are their great-great-grandmother Jo and her sisters Meg and Beth and Amy. The mother of the family is American, but they live in London in a house with an attic where Lulu discovers a stash of letters between Jo and her sisters. Lulu sees herself in Jo and finds connections and inspiration about who she wants to be in her life and in relationship to her sisters.
Thoughts: This book would not be as much fun if you haven’t read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. But if you are a woman who reads books in English, it’s high time you did, don’t you think? Too much of writing by women rests on the shoulders of these little women to have their story missing from your cultural references.
My copy of Little Women was my mother’s copy, inscribed in my grandmother’s faded blue handwriting: Sara Ann Hoover 12-25-1946 from Mother. There are several full-page illustrations by Hilda van Stockum — a few in color along with a silhouette at the beginning of each chapter that relates to the topic. This copy is well-worn, with the cover peeling off the spine, the fabric underlayment peeking from the inside covers, and the page edges softened by many turnings. But the pages all seem tightly bound with no tears or dog ears. I read it at least four times and I assume my mother read it more than once as well. Now that my mother and grandmother are gone, it’s a treasure.
Having recently read The Weird Sisters (Book Review: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown), comparing the two books came naturally. Both The Weird Sisters and The Little Women Letters are stories about three sisters with a literary tie-in. I found The Little Women Letters more comfortable and less challenging than The Weird Sisters, much the way I find Little Women more comfortable and less challenging than Shakespeare. The Little Women Letters is your favorite pair of blue jeans; The Weird Sisters is the little black dress (or maybe it’s red) that makes you feel more sophisticated than you normally imagine yourself to be. Both have a place in your wardrobe, or your reading life, but at different times. The Little Women Letters was perfect in the midst of my 48 Hour Book Challenge.
Appeal: This is a book for adults. There’s nothing in it that would make it objectionable for someone later in their teens, but there’s not that much to interest them either. The sisters in this book are dealing with men, careers, and establishing adult relationships with their parents and their sisters. Besides the Little Women connections, this book also indulged my Anglophilism — there were some really funny bits comparing Americans and Brits.
Challenges: Look! There’s a size in the title. Another book for my What’s In a Name challenge (which feels more like a fun treasure hunt than a book challenge).
Reviews: Janssen at Everyday Reading also liked this book, The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly, and gave a bit more of a descriptive review while also relaying her history with Little Women, because that is definitely part of what makes this an engaging book.
Have you read this book? What did you think?