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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Got Sisters? Read

The Little Women LettersThe Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Actually, this giveaway closed on June 13 and the book arrived June 14th--but the option to acknowledge receipt didn't appear to many days later. Matters not---I started the book as soon as it arrived and finished it this morning over coffee! Only one complaint--I like the cover of my copy -- a girls hand and a red rose over an open letter better than the clothes rack on the actual cover.

Now to my review--as you can see I've given the book five stars, not a common rating by me. I'm not sure why--or better to say--I'm not sure I know how to verbalize why. Do you have sisters? Did you love Little Women? Who was your favorite---Jo, the outspoken, Beth the adorable and tragic, Meg the domestic one or Amy the cute one who stole Laurie's heart? I always related to Jo--and in this novel so does Lulu--the middle sister of the Atwater clan. She, Emma, the settled and stable eldest, and Sophie, the irrepresible youngest,an aspiring serious actress are the latest generation of the Marsh clan,descended, on their mother's side, from Jo.

Donnelly does a remarkable job of interweaving the two groups of girls through Lulu's discovery, in her parents' dusty, spider-infested attic, of letters exchanged among the Marsh girls. Jo is left at home, seemingly destined for spinsterhood. This is a situation to which Lulu feels she can relate, especially since, as a 25 year old college graduate, she still hasn't settled on a life's work nor has she a boyfriend, although, this being the 21st century she is sharing a flat with a rich female friend. Amy is newly married and on her honeymoon in Europe with Laurie. Emma is engaged and soon to be married and quite decided on her life's path or so it seems. Meg is married to a dependable, quiet sort--much like Emma's Matthew --and has two children. Probably the sort of life Emma will have. Beth, of course, has died and her memory weighs heavily on her sisters, particularly Jo. In the modern group, Sophie, comes close to dying. This event causes her sisters to contemplate what it would mean to have one of them gone.

In Little Women Mr Marsh is present only through letters but his marriage to Mrs Marsh and their relationship is the foundation and security which stabilizes and supports the Marsh girls and so, too, David and Fee's marriage provides the anchor for the young women in modern London. But in no way is the story of the Atwater's a mirror image of the Marsh family. Instead, the letters help to clarify for Lulu how much life has changed in over 150 years and yet how much remains the same. How much the history of a family carries down through the generations and informs the present. Lulu keeps the letters for herself for most of the story --for herself and for us--and they bolster her through her time of indecision and self discovery. They also speak to all of us who have had sisters or who have daughters or who have extended families of women--but really for all those female interelationships--there simply is nothing like having real sisters and all the joy, aggravation, irritation, love, grief, anger, happiness, stress, jealousy, sharing that that entails.

Ms Donnelly wrote a beautiful book -- you'll delight in reading it.

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