The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly – Book Review

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Lulu is the failure of the Atwood family, at least that’s how she feels. Her younger sister, Sophie, seems to actually be on the verge of a successful acting career, and their responsible elder sister Emma is getting married. Lulu is not in a relationship, and has no idea what she wants to do with her life, taking dead-end jobs that drive her parents mad. Somewhat depressed, Lulu is up in the attic on an errand when she discovers a trove of letters from her great-grandmother Jo March to Jo’s sister, Meg. Jo reminds Lulu so much of herself: unsure the path she wants to take in life, unwilling to enter into romantic entanglements with her neighbor. Both women are spunky, but somewhat lost. Watching Jo find herself in the series of letters, Lulu begins to feel better about her prospects, and finds herself too.

A fascinating idea to me, the concept of Little Women never having existed, because the Atwood sisters are continuing to live in the March sisters’ universe. Even so, just as millions of young girls have found strength in Jo March, her great-granddaughter is able to do the same. Donnelly had a bit of a tricky line to walk with The Little Women Letters. On one hand, she could have made them too much carbon copies of the March girls and their experiences, and made the whole book trite and derivative. On the other hand, she could have made them too very different from Jo and her sisters and the Little Women angle would have felt tacked on. Instead, Donnelly found a lovely balance. Leaving out Beth, she imbued the other three March girls into each of the girls in the Atwood family, while still leaving Emma, Lulu, and Sophie to be thoroughly modern English girls.

Perhaps the best part of The Little Women Letters were the titular letters which Lulu discovered in the attic. Donnelly caught Jo’s voice and style very well, creating letters that are not canonical to Little Women, but do mesh with the happenings in the book.

All in all The Little Women Letters is a hugely enjoyable novel for fans of Little Women. Recommended.

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Powells | Indiebound*

Source: publisher, for an episode of What’s Old is New.
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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Book Review

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin

Sisters Rose, Bean, and Cordy – real names Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, courtesy of the renowned Shakespeare scholar who is their father – have never gotten along particularly well. Rose is responsible to the point of being overbearing, Bean craves attention and makes sure she gets it, and Cordy just floats irresponsibly through life. Dependable Rose has always stayed in close proximity to her parents, but Bean and Cordy, long out doing their own things, are finally brought home – ostensibly, at least – by their mother’s battle with cancer. In reality, all three sisters have serious issues of their own which make them reexamine the lives they had been living, and they must return home to recoup. Although being suddenly returned to one’s childhood home with one’s siblings understandably causes lots of stress, the sisters also begin to learn to support one another in their lives going forward.

The first thing that any reader is going to notice about “The Weird Sisters” is the plural narration. I do not mean that each of the sisters narrates, I mean that they narrate together as if they were a single entity. Think of it as the spirit of their sisterhood looking back on these events from a point sometime in the future. This may sound odd, but it was the perfect touch in a book that deals with families, sisters, and Shakespeare. The plural voice gave hope for their eventual cohesion, and spoke beautifully about the bond they shared, even if they were loathe to admit it at the beginning of the book.

This was a beautifully written and wonderfully moving book. Each of the three sisters tugged on my heartstrings in their own way, and one of them (if you’ve read the book already, or once you have, come back and guess who!) brought me to tears near the end of the book, something that doesn’t happen to me terribly often with literature. “The Weird Sisters” is one of those books which I will be going back to again and again. I’m already planning to listen to the audio version, and I will be going out and buying a hardcover to keep permanently in my collection to replace my ARC (incidentally, both of these things are also true of “You Know When the Men Are Gone” by Siobhan Fallon, also out today from Amy Einhorn Books).

Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Source: Publisher, via a trade show.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.