Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict
There are many reasons why books published well over a hundred years ago are still relevant and well loved today. One of these reasons is that as a reader you become so invested in the lives of the characters that you can’t help but want to read their story over and over and over again. I’m sure that this is the case for Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Women Letters. Her love for Louisa May Alcott’s beloved March sisters inspired her to continue their story by allowing the stories of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy to live on via a much younger and contemporary setting. The result is a great juxtaposition of old and new as Donnelly does an outstanding job at telling their stories and breathing new life into this classic.
The novel begins with sisters Emma, Lulu, and Sophie of the Atwater family, who live in London. They are “imagined descendents” of Jo March, the second and very opinionated child in the March family from Little Women. Lulu, the middle sister, is sent up to the attic of their home to find some recipes for her aunt, and inadvertently discovers a trove of letters written by Jo to her sisters. Feeling a bit lost herself, Lulu takes solace in these letters and begins to discover the lives of the March sisters through their correspondence. She discovers that she is much like Jo herself, and this empowers her to view her life in a whole new way, weaving the great stories of the March sisters in the past with her own present.
Firstly, I have to give Donnelly a lot of credit for her writing style. She writes in a way that makes the Atwater sisters seem like your own, and the more you read about them, the more endearing they become. I truly felt as if I was getting to know them as the book went on, and Donnelly allowed a relationship to grow between myself and the characters that made the book that much more enjoyable. Secondly, I also really enjoyed that the plot of Little Women had so much influence in the writing of The Little Women Letters. A lot of contemporary novels that I’ve read that are influenced by classics normally just take the plot of said classic novel and modernize it. While that was done in this book, Donnelly finds ways to take the original story and infuse it with the new contemporary one, giving the reader an opportunity to hang out with his/her favorite characters from the original.
Finally, it takes a masterful artist to weave the lives of three characters together, let alone the 8+ that Donnelly works with. She’s definitely something special and is a gem of a writer. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Little Women Letters is as loved and adored as Little Women in the future.
5 out of 5 Stars
The Little Women Letters, by Gabrielle Donnelly
Touchstone, New York (2011)
Hardcover (386) pages
© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose