Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

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, working dead-end jobs with no romantic prospects in sight. When her mother asks her to find a cache of old family recipes in the attic of her childhood home, Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. In her letters, Jo writes in detail about every aspect of her life: her older sister, Meg’s, new home and family; her younger sister Amy’s many admirers; Beth’s illness and the family’s shared grief over losing her too soon; and the butterflies she feels when she meets a handsome young German. As Lulu delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance, but can the words of her great-great-grandmother help Lulu find a place for herself in a world so different from the one Jo knew? Vibrant, fresh, and intelligent, The Little Women Letters explores the imagined lives of Jo March’s descendants—three sisters who are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly March. As uplifting and 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. 
Some things, of course, remain unchanged: the stories and jokes that form a family’s history, the laughter over tea in the afternoon, the desire to do the right thing in spite of obstacles. And above all, of course, the fierce, undying, and often infuriating bond of sisterhood that links the Atwater women every bit as firmly as it did the March sisters all those years ago. Both a loving tribute to Little Women and a wonderful contemporary family story, The Little Women Letters is a heartwarming, funny, and wise novel for today.
Little Women was a book for me as a small child that I identified with "big" reading. It was my goal as a child to learn to read. I used to carry that book around me like a precious gift until I hid it and my mom got rid of my hiding place (she didn't know I hid my treasure there). I did get another copy and had watched the movies made of the book and by the time I could read it and I was a fan. So, I approached this book with a bit of cynicism hoping to like it but worried I wouldn't.

I was first disappointed that this book was set in London. Hey, I have no probs with England or London for that matter, but this book was always decidedly American for me. I wondered if the author placed it there because she felt the language was more "proper" than the bad American english I'm used to hearing. ;) Anyway, the story still took me along. It read like a good chick lit book; one where the family is important as in the book it champions. These girls and mother are descendants of the March family but unfortunately the book, Little Women, has been lost to history. We get to know all of the characters especially Lulu who is supposed to emulate Jo. I felt it read fine but still wasn't sure how I felt about it until Liam came into the story. He really brought out Lulu's snarky side and then I enjoyed the book even more.

I give this book 4 stars. I wouldn't place it on the level of Little Women, but I say it is a great tribute to the book. If you are looking for a good chick lit book that references a classic in a fun way, then this might be the read for you. And I think I was a hard sell. :)

Favorite quote from Fee (mother) to Lulu:
"...if you have a good heart~ as I think we tend to, in our family~ then the rest of the world will start to be aware of that, and it'll become more important to them. And the people worth having around will like you accordingly. And as for the others, quite frankly, screw 'em."
I received this ARC from the publisher and no compensation for my review was given.


  1. A great review but I am not sure - I haven't read Little Women and I doubt I will.

  2. I love Little Women and I feel the same about this as you did - curious but worried I won't like it. I'm glad you enjoyed it in the end, I might have to check it out too! I like modern/fresh takes on classics - if done well, of course!

  3. I do not get why she had to place it in England. No Offence England, I love books set there but since the other one was in the states, well weird

  4. English myself I have to agree with you that I'm disappointed by the setting of this.

  5. Is it completely tragic and unacceptable that I've actually never read Little Women? I feel like I should have read it at some point whether for school or for myself but I've just never picked it up. Interesting that she switched the location to London:)

  6. I loved Little Women and have read it so many times! Jo was just the character that I identified with and made me realize that girls can do anything. I just don't know if I could accept the English setting---there are plenty of books set there that you could do wonderful tributes too.

  7. Yes, I agree. Little Women is an American classic.

    But this take sounds really interesting too. I like the idea of it being based on descendants of the March family instead of a retelling. And I'm not surprised that things picked up for you when the snark come out. :P

  8. Yeah... I suppose I should be ashamed to say I've never read Little Women... I saw the movie! Does this count? No?!

  9. Thanks for the review. I didn't know this one but I don't know if it's really for me... If it's a good chick-lit maybe I will try to read it.

  10. I'm always skeptical of books like this. Although, I always want to try them. I agree, I always thought the March sisters were decidedly American, but I could be totally off because sometimes I just don't pay enough attention. It sounds like a good book and I think I'll definitely check it out. Great review, Melissa. I love the quote at the end. Particularly the "screw 'em" part. LOL! :D

  11. HUH? The synopsis sounds good. I would love to dive in old letters and see where it takes me... Thanks for the review!

  12. Oh, I think this is my kind of book! I loved Little Women too ---although I didn’t hide it like you, Melissa! How it must have crushed you when your mom inadvertently got rid of it! What was your hiding place???

  13. Little Women will always hold a special place in my heart!

    You've got me interested in this one, especially with Fee's advice to Lulu!

    I think this is one for me!

    Great review as always, Melissa! Thanks for sharing!

  14. @Anachronist... oh you should! Not to romancy...

    @Belle...It isn't a retake (thank goodness) but a good tribute. :)

    @Blodeuedd... She explained it as they were wanderers, but it still didn't make sense to me. It didn't hurt the book tho.

    @...Petty... I wondered what it would be like if it was kept in the states...

    @Jenny... Yes, it is unacceptable... ;) j/k Little Women is superior to this one and no, you don't have to have read it to follow the story. Mostly likely just by hearing about it you know enough.

    @Felicia... I agree. It was a detraction, but like I said, it was a tribute and not a remake, so I could deal. :)

    @Missie... Who me? Like snark??? How did you guess??? ;D

    @Ashley...SHAME on you! ;) Na, you could totally get the book. You don't have to read the classic to understand it. It really is more chick-lit like.

    @Melliane... Yes, if you like chick-lit, you may enjoy this one.

    @Jen... LOL Yes, they were American. The mother Fee was supposed to be from America (and was the descendent of the March sisters) so probably why she said it that way instead of something bloody. ;)

    @Savannah... I think you'd enjoy this one. Romance in it! :D

    @Stephanie...Hee hee... it was MINE! ;) My hidey hole was in an old telephone desk my mom inherited before I was born. I wasn't supposed to play in it since it wasn't stable, but no one said I couldn't hide things in it! ;)

    @Kristi... Oh good! I hope you like it!

  15. You know I never read the Little Women books. I just couldn't get into reading them. Thanks for the review of this wonderful sounding one. :)

  16. Hmm lately it seems like all the classics are being adapted somehow. But I did like Little Woman, so perhaps, when I find it somewhere, I will give it a try. Nice review, thanks.


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