The Little Women Letters

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The Little Women Letters, Gabrielle Donnelly - book reviewHaving read and loved Louisa May Alcott’s classic, ‘Little Women’ as a child, I was intrigued by the title of Gabrielle Donnelly’s first novel, ‘The Little Women Letters‘. This is a modern day tale following the lives of Jo March’s (one of the original characters) ancestors. These are the Atwater sisters – Emma, Lulu and Sophie – who in many ways are very much like the March sisters albeit living in an entirely different age with different expectations and far fewer restrictions.

The three sisters each have very different personalities and each one is very much like one of the March sisters. Emma, the eldest is sensible and practical, very much like Meg in the original story; Sophie, aspiring actress and also the youngest is more flighty and excitable, just like Amy; and then there’s Lulu, the one in the middle who is just a bit quirky and different and does not always conform to her family’s expectations – just like Jo March herself.

The story takes place pretty much over the course of a year where all three are faced with challenges as well as enjoying triumphs. Emma is looking forward to her marriage to Matthew but soon comes to realise that marriage is often about compromise especially when Matthew asks her to make a big decision concerning her future. Sophie has moderate success in her quest to be an actress but needs to decide whether she is prepared to forget her principles in order to achieve what she wants. A life threatening situation makes her realise that there is more to life than just her career. Then there is Lulu who is struggling to decide what she wants out of life and trying not to get too annoyed with her family who continually push her for decisions. Each of these character has their own story but all three interweave very well along with the lives of their family and friends.

“This is a lovely story with some honest characters that you probably wouldn’t mind knowing in real life.”

As Lulu struggles to make decisions about her future, it is her family that provides her with inspiration. It is not her immediate family though but the family that is long gone. By chance, Lulu stumbles across a boxful of letters in the attic that were all written by her great great grandmother, Jo March. By reading the letters, she realises the closeness of the March family and how difficult their lives were especially when the fourth sister, Beth, died at a young age. By coming to understand some of the choices faced by Jo and her sisters, it helps Lulu make some choices of her own too.

Although I found it a bit difficult to get in to at the start, I came to really enjoy ‘The Little Women Letters‘. I found the three main characters very entertaining and really enjoyed their sisterly banter. I also become quite caught up in their dramas and I was very much hoping that things would turn out well for all of them. I very much enjoyed reading all of the letters sent by Jo March but I did wish that I had perhaps read ‘Little Women’ a little more recently as then I would have known more about many of the events that she was referring too.

Overall, ‘The Little Women Letters‘ is a really interesting and entertaining read. If you are like me, you might find it a little slow to start with but it is definitely worth persevering with. This is a lovely story with some honest characters that you probably wouldn’t mind knowing in real life. Also, if you remember Little Women from your childhood reading, there is a lovely sense of nostalgia too.

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
Published by Michael Joseph, May 2011
With thanks to the publishers for sending a copy of ‘The Little Women Letters‘ for review.

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Little Women Letters, The
by Gabrielle Donnelly

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Written by kingfisher

My name is Jo and I have been married to Simon for nine years. We have two beautiful daughters – Rachel who is six and Natalie who is almost five and starting school in January. I also have two step children aged twenty one and seventeen so family life is never dull. I also manage to work three days for a local education authority where I support the teaching of literacy in primary schools. I love my job and it’s ideal for a book lover like me. In my spare time I run, dance and occasionally tread the boards with my local amateur dramatics group. My first love is reading though and you will never find me without a book on the go. My husband is also an avid reader and we are hoping to pass on our love of reading to our daughters. They certainly love their bedtime stories every night. Although I have and English degree and I am familiar with most of the classics, I generally read much lighter stuff these days. It’s mainly ‘chic lit’ but I also enjoy a good thriller or courtroom drama. I have so many favourite authors and this list tends to change regularly depending on what I am reading.

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