The Little Women Letters

Written by Gabrielle Donnelly
Review by Andrea Connell

As much as I wanted to enjoy and enthusiastically recommend this book (being a great lover of this American classic), I’m afraid it left me a bit cold. I suppose anyone who attempts to connect a contemporary story with an old classic sets him- or herself up for quite a challenge. In this case, the plot revolves around the imagined American-British descendants of the Little Women’s March family discovering Jo March’s letters in their attic.

Lulu, the rebellious middle sister, finds her great-great-grandmother’s letters when her mother sends her to the attic in search of some old family recipes, and while slowly savoring them, comes to find that she shares many traits with her ancestor. The letters, written as Jo meets her beloved husband and shares her observations on love and life with her sisters, take both Lulu and the reader back to the original story.

The book’s chatty, informal dialogue in the form of good-natured, flippant bickering between the sisters would have been an effective storytelling device had it not been overused. The connection between the rebellious middle Atwater sister and the unconventional and tomboyish Jo March, as well as those between the other sisters of the two stories, seemed contrived. Each was too stereotyped to connect with: Emma, the down-to-earth, sensible eldest child; Lulu, of course, the sarcastic, ungrounded, middle child; and Sophie, the outspoken, attention-grabbing youngest.

I realize that connections to the original (through contemporary eyes) were being made through the relationships between the sisters and their outgoing American mother, Fee – and among each other – however, these connections were not subtle enough to engage this reader. Other reviewers have enjoyed this book, and I do recommend that fans of Little Women give it a try; perhaps you will feel differently than I.