The Little Women Letters | Book Review
Original Publication Date: 2011
Source: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.
The Little Women Letters: 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, with no romantic prospects in sight. Then Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. As she delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance. Can Lulu find her own place in the world? As 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.
The Little Women Letters is Gabrielle Donnelly’s imagining of a future generation of the March sisters from the classic novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
The Atwater sisters of London are direct descendants of Jo March, from Louisa May Alcott’s classic semi-autobiographical novel.
The Modern-Day March Sisters
The Atwaters are a modern London family consisting of Fee, the feminist American mother; and David, the good-natured British father.
The family also includes daughters Emma, the perfect sister planning her wedding; Lulu, the rebel; and Sophie, the ambitious actress.
They have not been particularly interested in family history, mocking their New England forebears with exaggerated hillbilly accents.
One day Fee asks her daughter Lulu to search for old family cookbooks in the attic.
While searching through dusty family possessions, Lulu discovers a cache of old family letters.
These include letters that Jo March wrote to her sisters, Meg, Amy, and the departed Beth.
As Lulu begins to read through the letters, she suddenly realizes that great-great-grandmother Jo was not merely some remote ancestor but a real human being with frailties and dreams.
As a matter of fact, some of the tribulations that Jo and her sisters faced in the nineteenth century are not so very different from what the Atwater sisters faced in the 21st century.
Lulu has been struggling to find her identity and what career path she wants to follow.
During the book, Lulu wanders through several jobs including at an art and auction house, barmaid, dog walker, and in a toy store.
Lulu also despairs that she will never find romance, wondering if she will ever find a soul mate.
The Little Women Letters is a charming extension of the Little Women story, which began with Little Women and was followed by Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
It does help to have read Louisa May Alcott’s classic although you don’t have to read it to enjoy this story.
Sometimes I had to remind myself that Donnelly wrote all of the letters in the book. She has been careful to try to capture the spirit of the original. Interestingly, the real-life Louisa May Alcott had a namesake niece who was nicknamed “Lulu”. Clearly, Donnelly has done her research.
Even though they’re a couple of difficult events that happen, this is a happy book.
I would have wished probably more depth to the situations facing the Atwaters, and sometimes I thought the answers were obvious (for example, it was obvious to me from the beginning what Lulu should choose as a career!), but this book is meant to be fun, light reading.
If you loved Little Women, you will enjoy The Little Women Letters.
You can check out Donnelly’s website here.
You can also read my review of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.