The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
|The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: A modern take (roughly) on the classic Little Women. A trio of sisters living, loving and working in London all hope for a happy life, but as problems loom for one sister in particular, she turns to her feisty Jo March, her ancestor, for inspiration and answers.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: May 2011|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
I read the back cover blurb with delight and couldn't help but applaud Donnelly for her ingenuity. I loved the book Little Women when I read it many years ago and television adaptations keep it fresh for new generations. So, before I'd even turned to chapter one, I was loving this book. But will it live up to my lofty expectations?
The story starts off very sensibly I thought back in the time of the March family era with a letter to Amy from her sister Jo (Jo was my favourite of the four sisters) and this letter is terrific; it's full of spunk and fizzle and is just what no-nonsense Jo would have written. There's a young lady who loves life, I'm thinking. Endearingly, she signs it Ever your topsy-turvy sister, Jo. And of course my thoughts are right back with Little Women. But then we leap straight into the present day. We're in a smart part of north London with middle-aged American Fee, her docile British husband and her lovely trio of daughters: Emma, Lulu and Sophie.
And yes, as you might expect, as we get to know the sisters (young women actually) they are all very different in temperament and yes, I did compare them to those four Little Women of over a century earlier. Donnelly gives us lots and lots of info. About their jobs, their partners, their love life (or lack of it in some cases) even down to their physical appearances. It's all written in an easy, conversational style and builds up a picture for the readers. There's also plenty of gentle humour and joshing and teasing amongst the sisters. The impression gained is that Fee's bohemian home is the magnet everyone is attracted to. They can't help themselves. So, regular lazy, Sunday lunches, Friday night suppers etc are all featured in this story which has a warm and cuddly feel to it.
There's also plenty of action and red-letter days for everyone to get involved in. There's a wedding coming up for one sister (the down-to-earth one) another is a bit scatty - in an adorable way, of course. Men fall at her feet apparently but she's still not one hundred per cent happy with her life. And then there's rather serious Lulu. Intelligent, thoughtful and just a tad prickly at times. She's ambling along, not sure what she wants to do with her life. A boyfriend would be nice but they appear to be thin on the ground. Her parents are also giving her grief. However, a chance rummage in the family attic uncovers Jo March's homespun advice to her sisters in the form of letters. Lulu takes note. But does she act?
I would probably say that the essence of this gentle story is to make the most of life and also to make the most of our talents and abilities. And also to be honest with ourselves. That last one may be a little more difficult to pull off. A timeless message.
The imagine-if-Jo-had-written-them letters are a joy to read. I think this book will have many of us hunting around for our old copies of Little Women. A book which constantly jumps back and forth from the past to the present. I can't believe I'm saying this but I felt it ran on a little beyond its natural cut-off, if you get my drift. This had the effect of slightly diluting the charm offensive for me, which had worked so well earlier on. But I think overall that this book will go down very well - especially with female readers. Recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly at Amazon.com.
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