Category Archives: Alcott, Louisa May

Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

All the way back in 2012, I migrated from Blogger to WP. In that time, I’ve had multiple blogs, with differing themes, I’ve been self-hosted and I’ve used free sites, and I’ve been generally unable to commit to anything. I’ve decided at this point that I want all of my bookish content to live in one place. So, over the next several months, I’ll be republishing posts that have long been published on other blogs, adding reviews to my review index, and then eventually deleting those old posts & blogs for good.

I’m starting with my first classics club project – the OG of reading projects for me – which ran from 2012 through 2015.

Rose In BloomRose In Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
Series: Eight Cousins #2
Publication Date: September 1, 1876
Pages: 336
Genre: classic, YA
Project: classics club round 1

In this sequel to Eight Cousins, Rose Campbell returns to the "Aunt Hill" after two years of traveling around the world. Suddenly, she is surrounded by male admirers, all expecting her to marry them. But before she marries anyone, Rose is determined to establish herself as an independent young woman. Besides, she suspects that some of her friends like her more for her money than for herself.

Rose in Bloom covers a relatively brief period in the life of Rose Campbell. It picks up, not right after Eight Cousins ends, but between a year and eighteen months later. The time that is left unnarrated involved a lengthy trip to Europe taken by Rose, Uncle Alec and Phebe, Rose’s maid-and-unofficially-adopted-sister.

Rose has grown up during her time away from the Aunt Hill, coming of age as a young woman preparing to be launched into society and into marriage. Phebe, as well, has become an accomplished singer during the time in Europe, and has also blossomed into a beauty.

Most of Rose in Bloom concerns the nineteenth century process of finding a husband and wild oats sowing. Upon arrival home, Rose is – accidentally – informed by the youngest and bluntest of the boys that she is intended for one of her cousins to keep her money in the family. She is a bit put off by this, but appears to acquiesce to the family plans to marry her off to Charlie, the second oldest, handsomest, wildest, and most spoiled of the Campbell males.

So, this book. It is, in my opinion, neither as charming nor as enjoyable as Eight Cousins. Louisa May and her preachiness cannot be contained. Also, the whole first cousins marrying thing is a bit squicky. Apparently Alcott did not feel this way, but I do.

So, approaching Rose in Bloom with an eye toward the time in which it was written is absolutely necessary to enjoy the book at all. Otherwise, it is not possible to refrain from violent eye-rolling at the expectations placed upon poor Rose and her magical virtue which will somehow turn drunkards and animals into young gentlemen. Also, straying from the path of righteousness is definitely going to kill you.

But, it is Alcott, and it was the nineteenth century, and, well, Rose in Bloom is actually really, really sweet. And the actual romance between Rose and her ultimate suitor is adorable. And Rose herself remains good-hearted and honest and pretty immune to nonsense. She does stand up for herself when she must and she refuses to be sacrificed to save her cousin. And good for her, because there was no substance there, just empty charm and looks.

There is also a charming side story about Phebe and Archie falling in love.

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

All the way back in 2012, I migrated from Blogger to WP. In that time, I’ve had multiple blogs, with differing themes, I’ve been self-hosted and I’ve used free sites, and I’ve been generally unable to commit to anything. I’ve decided at this point that I want all of my bookish content to live in one place. So, over the next several months, I’ll be republishing posts that have long been published on other blogs, adding reviews to my review index, and then eventually deleting those old posts & blogs for good.

I’m starting with my first classics club project – the OG of reading projects for me – which ran from 2012 through 2015.

Eight CousinsEight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
Series: Eight Cousins #1
Publication Date: September 1, 1874
Pages: 299
Genre: classic, YA
Project: classics club round 1

Rose Campbell, tired and ill, has come to live at "The Aunt Hill" after the death of her beloved father. Six aunts fussing and fretting over her are bad enough, but what is a quiet 13-year-old girl to do with seven boisterous boy cousins?

Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom make up the duology of books about the main character Rose Campbell. These are two of my favorite Alcott books, which I recently re-read for the Alcott event and also for my ongoing series on children’s classics.

Of the two, I prefer Eight Cousins, which is the story of young Rose, who is orphaned and sent to live at the Aunt Hill, with her two great-aunts. Both Aunt Plenty and Aunt Peace are rather elderly spinsters. Rose has lived with her father, George, apart from the rest of the Campbell clan, which consists of five other Campbell brothers and their wives and offspring.

When Eight Cousins begins, Rose is 13 years old. This part of the story takes us through Rose’s 16th-ish birthday. Rose is the only girl of her generation, with 7 male cousins from age 16 (Archie) through 6 (Jamie).

Rose is sweet-natured, and ends up being raised by her bachelor Uncle Alec, a seafaring doctor who has “ideas” about child-rearing that mostly relate to girls being treated more like boys, and encouraged to read good books, take lots of exercise, and not wear corsets. Rose is a rather sickly child when she arrives at the Aunt Hill and is rapidly restored to health by dint of a large waistband, fresh milk, fresh air, and lots less sighing over girly stuff. This could be annoying, but it really isn’t, since the treatment of girl-children during this era was mostly ridiculous and Rose’s raising is much more consistent with how I personally think girls should be raised (with lovely things like access to books and education) versus how they were actually raised.

Alcott’s father, Bronson, was a well-known educational reformer, and Alcott’s stories are full of themes about equality of education for women. Rose is not eligible to attend actual school (being a girl and all), but Uncle Alec makes sure that she has access to resources to allow for some self-education.

There is some of Alcott’s trademark moralizing, but it isn’t as heavy-handed in the first volume of the Rose Campbell story as it becomes in the next. Rose is raised to be, and is generally, thoughtful, modest, honest and generous. She spends a lot of time caring for her sick cousin, Mac, who is the studious one of the lot, and is two years older than Rose.

The boys are a boisterous, rowdy crew. The Campbells are obviously quite affluent, and Alcott’s theories, as well, about the obligation of the rich to care for the poor are mostly shown through Rose’s charitable activities. Rose is quite an heiress, and decides early that she wishes to be a philanthropist and to help others with her fortune. She is a bit of a Mary Sue, but she’s so darned charming about it that it works.

This is a classic for a reason. It is probably much too quiet and modest a story to appeal to modern girls. Which is too bad, really.

The sequel to Eight Cousins is Rose in Bloom.

Alcott and heavy-handed moralizing

This is an old review from 2013. I am closing down a blog, and republishing book reviews prior to deleting the old one.

Work: A Story of ExperienceWork: A Story of Experience by Louisa May Alcott
Publication Date: June 1, 1873
Pages: 344
Genre: classic
Project: classics club round 1

In this story of a woman's search for a meaningful life, Alcott moves outside the family setting of her best known works. Originally published in 1872, Work is both an exploration of Alcott's personal conflicts and a social critique, examining women's independence, the moral significance of labor, and the goals to which a woman can aspire. Influenced by Transcendentalism and by the women's rights movement, it affirms the possibility of a feminized utopian society.

I read this for a reading event in a private group over on Goodreads. When I began reading this, I mistakenly believed that it was one of her early novels. I was quite wrong about that – according to Wikipedia, it was published in 1873, after both Little Women and Little Men, as well as after her melodramatic stories that were published in the 1860’s. So, looking at it with this in mind, some of what I thought were the seeds of Little Women are really more recycled bits from that particular book.

This is not Alcott’s best work, which makes sense, since it is a largely forgotten story. Written for adults, it is more overtly political even than her other books, with very obvious feminist and abolitionist overtones. Although it is well-worth reading, Alcott is – as she has a tendency to be – heavy-handed in her moralizing.

The book generally tells the tale of a young woman, Christie Devon, who leaves the care of her resentful uncle and long-suffering but loving aunt and seeks employment to make her way in the world. She is engaged in various fairly menial jobs: governess, companion, actress, seamstress, and struggles to support herself. Many issues are addressed, and Alcott’s abiding abolitionist beliefs are openly articulated.

There were a couple of things that I found particularly interesting about the book. First, reminiscent of the proposal of Laurie and Jo’s refusal to marry him, Christie also turns down a proposal from a wealthy gentleman. There are shades of Pride and Prejudice, as well, in the dialogue from this section of the book. Christie initially turns him down politely, and when he reacts badly, we have a very “Lizzie Bennett” moment where she calls him out for his sense of superiority. It left me wondering if Alcott had read P&P close in time to writing the book – the scenes were so similar.

In addition, it has a bit of a WTF ending. Alcott is a deeply religious woman, and believes fervently (as many of her era did) in a heaven. The book takes place during the years of the Civil War and much is made of the heroic sacrifice of the men and women who fought for the union and who died, or had loved ones die, in the war. Louisa always was one for the grand sacrificial gesture – if you are looking for a traditional happily ever after for our heroine, well, you’re not going to get one.

Anyway, it was an interesting read. A bit too sweet and preachy for my taste, but, still, Alcott was a very principled woman, and it was interesting to read something that is so clearly feminist and egalitarian from the early part of my nation’s history.