Margaret Stohl & Melissa De La Cruz
4.5 Stars, but I’m rounding up to combat all the one star reviews from people who did not even read the book.*
I thought this was so much fun! I was always interested in the parallels between Louisa May Alcott’s own life and Little Women, and this book combined the two in a way that I found very interesting. While both of the movie adaptations of Little Women that I have watched recently have had the concept of Jo being the author of the novel (The 150th anniversary adaptation as well as the Greta Gerwig adaptation), both of the movies still stayed true to the novel which I appreciated. However, I was surprised and interested to see that this book was much more of a hybrid between Louisa May Alcott’s life and the original book.
The premise for this book is that it takes place in between Part one and Part two of Little Women (The latter of which was originally called Good Wives). While today they are published in one volume, these were originally published separately, and Louisa May Alcott received a lot of letters asking her to write about what happened next, and this book takes place in the time in between, treating the story as though Jo was actually the one who wrote Little Women. I thought this concept was very interesting, and allowed the authors to take more liberties with the story.
Something about this book that made it unique was the fact that the original book still existed in the world of these characters. It is almost set up as though the first volume of the book was a way for Jo to rewrite her own life in a more idyllic way, giving herself an old wealthy aunt, and allowing Beth to survive the first round of scarlet fever. However, over the course of this story, during which she writes the second volume, she realizes that she cannot make everyone end uppitiest living happily ever after, and she has to confront the problems in her life both in real life as well as in her book. Many of these elements were drawn from Louisa May Alcott’s life as well.
I did also find the reactions of her sisters to what she had written about them very interesting, and at times they made me want to laugh. Meg, for example, is extremely upset that Jo wrote that she and John Brooke got married, when in reality they had never spoken to each other. However, by the end of the book, they end up married after all, in a way partially because of Jo’s book. Amy’s annoyance at the pickled limes also became something of a running joke through the book.
I thought that the way that the inevitable outcome (as stated very clearly in the titled) was handled very well, in that the book did not rush to the conclusion, and actually had similar problems to the original story, but enough differences that the ending made sense. When I originally read Little Women, I was disappointed that this was not the conclusion, though I understood it later on. Still, it was nice to see what that could have looked like, and I thought that it was well done.
*A Note: It is absolutely valid to read a book and give it one star if you disliked it. It is also valid to decide not to read a book if you dislike the concept of it, and it is fine to write a review to tell other people why you aren’t reading it. It is not acceptable, however, to rate a book one star without ever even opening it. This is unfair to the authors because it brings the rating down and this can really affect people’s likelihood of reading it. It says very clearly on the front cover that this a retelling. There are many different retellings of various stories. I’ve read retellings of fairy tales, Shakespeare and classic books like Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and now this one. There is nothing disrespectful about a retelling, and the authors are not saying this is what should have happened in the original. It’s just a “what if.” As I said earlier, this book is actually much more based on Louisa May Alcott’s own life rather than the actual book.