I’ll confess that I am back dating this post. I finished reading this the third week in December, but never got around to posting a review. This is the case for Little Men and Jo’s Boys which I’m hoping to have posted by Friday.
As the continuation of Little Women I expected more from this novel, however as a middle novel in a ‘trilogy’ (they’re loosely a trilogy, and there are apparently a couple of others tangentially connected) I’m not too surprised with the mediocrity of the work.
The novel takes place 10 years after the end of Little Women, and all of our favorite characters make occasional appearances. The hardest part about reading the novel were all the new names and back-stories. With twelve additional characters to the numerous from Little Women it gets confusing. What I took from the story and truly appreciated is that forced learning never works, nor does solely classroom learning. I’m sure there were many other lessons, but this is the one I found most appealing.
In choosing to work with all youth, regardless of social status or income, Jo and Fritz combine the have and have-nots to create a unique learning environment for the time. Taking it a step further, they opened their school to an additional female (2 females and 12 males) creating a coeducational environment. In both Little Women and Little Men Alcott’s dedication and passion to female education impressed me. I know little about her, but hope she was this outspoken outside of her writings.
It is hard to choose a favorite character as they were all unique, from Nat’s shy fiddling to Nan’s crazy antics and Daisy and Demi’s dedication to Dan’s firebrand attitude you never quite new what you were going to get. The preaching felt a bit more genuine and less thrown in to cover a scandalous story. Perhaps times had changed a bit, not to mention Alcott’s fame, but the preaching was definitely less emphatic in Little Men.
The only other thing that bothered me about Alcott’s writings, and this is true with Jo’s Boys too, was the over saturation of name dropping. I don’t know if it was to show how educated she is, or because she truly felt all of the allusions were necessary, but the Greek myths, the famous authors, the archetypal characters, and composers, and artists, just kept coming and coming and coming.
Recommendation: Overall I did enjoy the book, but I appreciated it much more while I was reading Jo’s Boys.
Opening Line: “Please, sir, is this Plumfield?” asked a ragged boy of the man who opened the great gate at which the omnibus left him.
Closing Line: For love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive. (Whited out in case you don’t want to read it.)
Quotes from Little Men
“She was not at all handsome, but she had a merry sort of face that never seemed to have forgotten certain childish ways and looks, any more than her voice and manner had; and these things, hard to describe but very plain to see and feel, made her a genial, comfortable kind of person, easy to get on with, and generally “jolly,” as boys would say.” (6)