Read and Review

I’m still in a period of mourning for my NaNoWriMo productivity and have only just survived this latest manic week/month at work, and I’m still not yet back to writing. Instead I have returned to the familiar, comfortable habit of reading. I’ll pick up my metaphorical pen soon though, I’m sure of it: I just need to remind myself that I can do it; that I can write a novel just like the author who’s book I’m reading.

I’ve actually just finished reading The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I chose it because Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is one of my favourite novels ever – along with it’s second half Good Wives (why publish one novel in two halves in the UK when it’s only one originally I’ll never know). I adored the March sisiters, and while I wasn’t always keen on the style of writing, the characters she brought to life have always stayed with me; maybe that is because I am a ‘Jo’, who coincidentally always wanted to be a ‘Beth’ (except maybe the dying young part).

The new take on the Little Women franchise is interesting, and it was lovely to go back and revisit the March sisters through Jo’s eyes. The similarities between Emma, Lulu and Sophie to their March counterparts Meg, Jo and Amy is clear from the start, and I especially like the counselling mother figure. It was a nice story, weaved into it Jo’s many letters to her sisters that often mirrored some of the emotional happenings with the modern plot. However, I found it all ended rather comfortably and ever so slightly odd; with Jo’s letter to a future generation confusing me somewhat. There is no doubting that women are a strong and recurrent theme in the novel, not least like Alcott’s original cast: and I did find Donnelly’s portrayal of Jo quite genuine, albeit some of the language not typical of the writer Jo I’d imagined (overuse of the word ‘ain’t’ and phrases such as ‘she don’t’ not ringing grammatically true for my vision of such a strong, intellectual character such as Jo).

Overall though, I read it in less than a day: which does at least indicate that it’s gripping enough to want to make me read on. It was, actually, a little short for my liking – the ending appeared a little rushed, with all the bows neatly tied and everyone paired up: I could have been coaxed to read a little more had it been there – but I suppose it’s always advisable to leave readers wanting just that little bit more…which is precisely why I love Alcott’s characters in the first place.

I would quite contentedly lose myself in the March sisters’ lives forever, with all their endearing character faults and complex emotions during challenging times. If only Alcott could come back and give us more details and tell us ‘what happened next’: Donnelly certainly made a good go of it, but I’m sticking with the original cast and director for my favourites. It was a nice idea to revisit the March family, and see how their descendants turned out, although I think I’d have preferred to really know what Alcott would have wanted for Jo and whether she’d really have lived to be one hundred then: and if she had, what would Jo have acheived by then?

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