The Little Women Letters is an absolutely delightful modern spin-off of the original Little Women stories, with Jo's great-great-granddaughter finding the letters she wrote to her sisters before her marriage. Reading this made me happy.
I love Little Women. My parents went to see the Winona Ryder/Christian Bale version when I was nine and my mom came home and said as soon as I'd read the book, she'd take me to see it. A week or two later, I was a fan for life.
I have read and reread the three books in the March family series and I love them all.
Three days before we moved away from Massachusetts, my mom and I, with two week old Ella in tow, visited Orchard House in Concord.
So, it's not hard to sell me on a Little Women book. And this one was such a delightfully fun one.
The story takes place in London in the present day, following three sisters.
Emma is the oldest, planning a wedding to her sweet and quiet fiance, Matthew. Sophie is the youngest, pursuing (not particularly successfully) an acting career. And Lulu is in the middle, a brilliant student, but uninterested in pursuing an academic career and frankly, not at all sure what she wants to do with her life at all. The constant pestering from her family and friends isn't helping matters either.
Then, in the attic of her parents' home, she discovers a stash of old letters from her great-great-grandmother, Jo March (yes, this book works under the assumption that Jo was a real person, rather than a fictionalized version of Louisa May Alcott).
And in these letters, Lulu finds some comfort that her prickly nature and decidedly different personality than her sisters might not be such a bad thing after all. Perhaps she's come by it naturally.
This book does a phenomenal job balancing the letters from the past with the life of the girls in the present. I didn't feel like it relied too heavily on either one. If you're a Little Women fan, you'll enjoy the letters and probably want to reread the books as it reminds you of many of the fantastic bits. If you've never read the original books, I think you won't be lost or feel like you're missing anything.
The sisters are all very different (like the sisters in Little Women) but without making any of them the villain. They all have their own strengths and faults. They bicker, but they love each other.
And the mother in this book is as different as you can imagine someone being from Marmee, and yet she is so loving and wonderful all the same. When Emma buys an enormously expensive pair of shoes for her wedding and then admits to her mother how guilty she feels about the cost, her mother's reaction almost moved me to tears (it also convinced me to send this book to my mom).
The dialogue is really what makes the book fantastic - it's sparkling and funny and sweet and honest. And, like Little Women, it has a fairly enormous cast of characters, nearly all of which are well-developed.
And. . . one more similarity to the source material: the book does have an overarching narrative, but it's loose with the bulk of the book made up of small stories in the lives of the characters. It's not about racing to the end of the book to find out what happens, rather it's about losing yourself in the story.
I can't remember the last time I read a book that I got so much pure enjoyment from. I just loved this book.
Advance Copy picked up at Book Bloggers Convention