[Review] Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Classic. 2013. Originally written in two parts, 1868 and 1869.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. American literature. Young adult.
Pages: 534 printed pages.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: American literature readers. Readers of Louisa May Alcott who are drawn to young women’s stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

I can’t believe my copy is $59.95 on Amazon. I paid a fraction of that amount at the discount store, Marshalls.

The text of this book is from the original in 1868,1869.

Goodreads page for Louisa May Alcott.

Further links of interest:

Women’s History.

Brittanica (with pop up ads.)

Biography.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888.)

Summary:

Little Women is the story of the four March sisters. Their names are Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

When the story begins, their father is away as a soldier in the Civil War. The family home is in Massachusetts. Their mother is Marmee.

Little Women is a sentimental and charming story of four different in temperament and personality sisters.

The story shares their lives over a period of several years beginning at Christmas time 1863.

My Thoughts:

This review has possible spoilers if you’ve not read or seen Little Women.

I did not fall crazy in love with the story; however, I did enjoy reading Little Women. This is a first time to read it.

What I love about Little Women:

  1. The genre for this story is not just one but several. Some examples are American literature, classic literature, coming of age story, and young adult.
  2. I love the variety of personalities shown in the four sisters. Jo is independent, an individual, outspoken, a writer. Jo makes a choice to do something different than most young women of her era do. She relocates to another city to learn the craft of writing. Meg is the most maternal figure with the exception of Marmee. Meg wants to get married and have children. She is the domestic sister of the bunch. It is through her story that I see represented a young married couple with young children. Beth is the peacemaker. She is meek and mild. She has inner strength and fortitude. She is a pianist. Amy is prim. She is an artist; oil painting is her media. Her role as the youngest of the sisters is presented as the spoiled one, the baby of the sisters who is a bit meddling and annoying.
  3. The story shows stereotypes in the characters. For example, Marmee is patient, nurturing, wise, and loving. Jo is a strong exception. She chooses a different path. I love her gutsy personality. I love her outspokenness. I love Jo’s individualism. And, I love seeing the imperfections in the sisters. However, I do not believe Alcott shows imperfections in Marmee. Marmee seems like an angel-above it all-hovering over the family like a Madonna.
  4. I love Laurie. He is an asset to the story in more than one way. He is an important part of how I see the family. Through his eyes and feelings and behavior, I see the sisters too.
  5. I love the descriptions of nature. Alcott writes of crickets and squirrel, and other creatures of nature. One of my favorite sentences in the book is referring to the sun and horizon. “The sun was low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hill-tops; and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks, that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.” Page 141.
  6. There are references to the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyon in this story. I love The Pilgrim’s Progress and I’m thinking of rereading it soon.
  7. I love knowing what happens to the family after they are settled in life. This gives the book a solid closure.

Final Thoughts:

I wonder why Marmee is depicted as perfect.

I wonder what her thoughts and voice would reveal.

I wonder if Laurie loves Jo because of “his” image of her (independence and outspoken nature.) But I don’t know if they would be happy together as a romantic couple.

Mr. March has a small role in the story. It is almost completely about the women with the exception of Laurie.

I’d read in the introduction that Alcott did not want to write a sentimental type of moral story. However, this kind of story paid the bills. Later, she made revisions to the original text. It must have pained her (to a degree) to change words in a text that she did not enjoy writing in the first place.

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[Review] A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Publisher and Publication Date: Fall River Press, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Company. 2019. First published in 1843.
Genre: Fiction. Classic. Christmas story.
Pages: 125 printed pages.
Format: Leather edition.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of Charles Dickens’ stories. Readers who enjoy Christmas stories.
Rating: Excellent.

Illustrations are by John Leech.

The front cover I’ve shown above is not the exact edition I own. The edition I own holds only A Christmas Carol.

Summary:

A Christmas Carol is considered a novella by Charles Dickens. It has been created in film several times. There is a lengthy list of various editions printed.

People who have not read the story (most certainly) has seen the film. So, I am going to skip a summary that I usually type out and focus on the My Thoughts section.

My Thoughts:

I adore this story. It is one of my top favorites. Most Christmas’s I read it.

Several reasons why I love this story:

  1. Charles Dickens does not merely describe a character; he gives the character teeth and skin accompanied with vigorous and rich verbs.
  2. The story is memorable.
  3. The story is a moral story.
  4. The story is sentimental.
  5. The story is a ghost story, but it is not scary. The ghosts are used as guides, teachers, visionaries, and mentors.
  6. The main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is a character who evolves. He transforms during the story and is a remarkably different person at the conclusion.
  7. The story is a teaching story using comparisons and themes. For example, indifference versus compassion. Miser versus humanitarian. Pride versus humility. Judgmental versus forgiving.
  8. The story without stating it is Christian because the teachings are a part of the teachings of Christ. I’m reminded of the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5. “And the second, like it, is this: You Shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31. NKJV.
  9. Charles Dickens wrote stories for entertainment, but he also wrote stories that had a purpose. For example, he wrote stories pointing out social injustice. In A Christmas Carol, I see this theme with a deep and memorable impact. The injustices of the social-economic system especially in regard to children. Those who are rich and people who are poor. The two segments in society rarely mix. The upper society has criticism and presumptions and arrogance towards those who are poor (including against the children.) The division between the two is rarely met even in conversation. Except in this short story the two groups are represented by Scrooge and the Cratchit family.

Scripture links are to Bible Gateway.

[Review] Half Notes from Berlin by B V Glants

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Media. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult historical fiction.
Pages: 256.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and B. V. Glants. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers with an interest in Holocaust stories, and those who read young adult fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

B.V. Glants was born in Soviet Ukraine and immigrated with his family to suburban New Jersey when he was ten years old. Raised on family stories ranging from his grandparents’ fight for survival in WW2 to his parents’ confrontations with Soviet antisemitism, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter.

B.V. Glants is a lay leader at a Jewish day school, a Wexner Heritage Program member, and a technology entrepreneur, most recently having cofounded Tonic Health (sold to R1, NASDAQ:RCM) and Turnkey Labs. That hasn’t stopped him from earning an MFA at California College of the Arts and attending writers’ conferences at Squaw and Sewanee. He writes historical fiction from a Jewish perspective, focusing on how major historical events challenge and transform the lives of everyday families. Half Notes from Berlin is his first published novel.

Summary:

Berlin, Germany. 1933.

Hans believes he and his family are safe from persecution.

Then, he discovers his family’s dirty secret: his maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity.

Driven by the desire to understand who he is and whether his mother’s blood is tainted, Hans befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Perhaps if Jewish blood isn’t evil, his mother will be ok.

To be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany is dangerous.

But to fall in love with one is unthinkable.

Desperate to keep both his family’s true heritage and his love for Rebecca a secret, Hans attempts to navigate this terrifying new world. He’s disconsolate when his Jewish mother is kicked out of the Berlin Conservatory. He’s disgusted by his Aryan father’s aims to acquire a Jewish business on the cheap.

Worst, he must watch helplessly as his classmates target Rebecca with increasing violence and malice.

But when his school announces it will expel Jewish students, Hans is determined to fight for Rebecca — and the lives and souls of his family.

“…[a] beautifully written historical debut explores themes of identity and resistance…their gripping stories will stick with readers long after the last page.” –BookLife Reviews – Editors Choice

“A mesmerizing novel, moving and intelligent.”–Kirkus Reviews

This is the link for the Kirkus Review: Half Notes from Berlin.

My Thoughts:

I’m excited to share my thoughts about this story for two reasons:

  1. This is a first published story for Glants. I love to discover new authors. I love to read a first published story.
  2. This is a favorite genre.

I want to first share a few thoughts about the genre and the summary that’s been given. The book is presented as a historical fiction story, and the summary that’s given is brief or vague.

When I am browsing books there are several factors, I want to have clear information about. Half Notes from Berlin is a historical fiction story, but it is also young adult fiction and a coming-of-age story. Not all readers of historical fiction want to read those other two types of books. I happen to love all three genres.

I also enjoy having a strong summary to read. It is the summary that sets the tone as to what I can expect. It is a prompt and a teasing and a setting of the stage for the full story.

Kirkus Reviews gives a strong summary of the book, and you can read it at this link: Kirkus Reviews.

I have come to expect that when I read historical fiction there is almost always a reflecting back from the narrator of the story. Often there are dual time periods. This is a form or structure in a story that I dislike. I don’t mind reflecting back-what I don’t like is the back and forth, and back and forth between the dual time periods. I love it that Half Notes from Berlin stayed in the past (with brief thoughts from the man who is telling the story), AND it stayed in a short period of time, the spring of 1933. This pivotal and significant period of time in the life of a 15-year-old young man. It is during this time period that changed the course of his life.

One of the best points of this story is I felt engaged because of the main character, the 15-year-old young man named Hans. He is exactly how I’d imagine a young man of his age to be. In his interests, vulnerabilities, stubbornness, and rebellion. He has strengths and weaknesses. He has a vision of what his life is and what it can become. He is a lone child of parents who are at odds and unhappy. His parents do not work together as a team. As a result, his grandparents are a source of stability. Yet, all of the adults have failed to be honest with him.

Hans has a group of boys he hangs around with in school. He joins a youth choir with the help of a female classmate who is an assertive kind of girl.

Hitler’s influence and ideology has seeped or poured into the youth groups or movements of Germany. Hans is unsure of the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, he has a building interest in another girl in his class. He is drawn to her, I feel, because she is different. There is something remarkable about her. She is vulnerable; however, she is strong. She is a Jew. The growing hate and abuse escalate among the other classmates towards her.

The story has several inner and outer conflicts that pull me along because I have to know what will happen.

I am glad the story is over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1933. This gave time to examine closely the various events and impact of the people.

I wish the story had allowed Hans’ mother’s character to develop more. She is a character with much more going on in her mind and past life. There is a revealing of some things of her past, but I am left wanting to hear her voice-her thoughts.

[Review] Modern Magic: Five Stories by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: The Modern Library. 1995.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 275.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers with an interest in other stories Alcott wrote.
Rating: Good for A Pair of Eyes. Okay for most of the stories. My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the one I dislike.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Modern Magic is a collection of five short stories.

  1. A Pair of Eyes; or, Modern Magic.
  2. The Fate of the Forrests.
  3. Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Power.
  4. Perilous Play.
  5. My Mysterious Mademoiselle.

I’m in the process of reading Little Women for the first time. While at the library a couple of weeks ago, I came across a book of Alcott’s short stories which I’d already heard were vastly different than Little Women.

I cannot say with honesty that I enjoyed reading any of the stories. They are different. They most certainly were different in the 19th century when they were written. I’m not sure what was going on in Alcott’s head to prompt her to write at least one of them. It satisfied a curiosity in me to read this book.

The introduction in this book helps. The introduction in my copy of Little Women published by Penguin Classics certainly helps.

My review will contain spoilers, because if I do not give a little information about one of the stories you will be left wondering what I’m referring too that is so odd about one particular story.

In the first story, A Pair of Eyes. The main character is an artist who lives for his art. He considers that he is married to his work. However, he meets a woman who has these “mysterious eyes” that he must paint. The more time he spends with her the more he is enchanted with her and is overtaken with overwhelming feelings.

I feel this story has excellent dialogue, storyline, mystery, especially in the building up of the story.

A Pair of Eyes is my favorite.

The Fate of the Forrests is a story about a Hindoo curse on a family. I had a hard time becoming apart of the story. I understand the plot and storyline. I just did not care for it.

Behind a Mask is another story in the book about manipulation and control which is a strong theme running through all the stories. At least in this story there is a nice ending.

Perilous Play is about curiosity to use hashish bonbons. I am glad the story is one of the shorter ones because I was ready to move on.

My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the story I dislike, but it too is brief. A middle age unmarried English man meets a kittenish young girl on a train. The description of this girl is feminine with golden curls. This man is smitten. The two share a compartment on the train and exchange a light flirtation. The man takes a nap. When he wakes up, he is seated near a young man-a teenager. This young man is revealed to be the nephew of the man. The young man in female clothes is not what bothers me, it is the young man knew this was his uncle he was flirting with. It’s been a ploy. And at the end, the two leave together as if this “almost escalated” situation is not a big deal.

What I learned from reading Alcott’s short stories:

  1. She can write both long stories and short stories. Not all writers can do this.
  2. She writes excellent dialogue.
  3. She writes unusual and creative stories.
  4. I don’t see the stories as wicked which is what many in the 19th century thought of them. I have 21st century eyes and views, etc. I do believe they are melodramatic, dark, a little sinister and mysterious.
  5. In all the stories there are characters who are untrustworthy because they are manipulative, calculating, and have a ploy.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books. 2011.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 314.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of women and literature. The book may especially be of interest to Hemingway fans.
Rating: Good to very good.

Goodreads author page for Paula McLain.

Paula McLain has written another book about the wives of Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife is book one about the first wife.
Love and Ruin is the third book about the third wife.

Link for The Paris Wife @ Amazon.

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway. They married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Their son was John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. His nickname was Bumby. He was born in 1923. He died in 2000.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway. They married in 1927 after his divorce from Hadley. Hadley and Pauline had been friends. Ernest and Pauline had 2 sons: Patrick and Gregory (Gloria). Ernest and Pauline divorced in 1940.

Summary:

The Paris Wife is from the voice of Hadley. In the first pages, Hadley is grieving the death of her mother who she had a strained relationship. She takes a trip to Chicago and at a party she meets Ernest. It’s only been a couple of years since Armistice Day. Ernest is a young, ambitious, vibrant, charismatic, charming, persuasive Romeo. He is a strong pursuer.

Hadley is older than Ernest by 7 years and 8 months.

Hadley has not had the social life of dating and relationships that Ernest had. She has lived at home. She’s had three deaths to grieve in her lifetime. Each taking a little bit more away from her psyche.

The story follows their relationship to the end and especially during their Paris years. In the final chapters of the book, it shares about Hadley’s later part of life. The book does not share the detailed life of their son Jack or Bumby (as he was called as a child).

My Thoughts:

The main point I do not like about the book is the structure or form. Hadley shares her story in her voice, but every once in a while, Ernest (in italics) shares his story. I dislike him having a voice at all considering Hadley points out more than once that his personality is so big, he fills the room with his presence. This is another way of saying he sucked all the air out of the room. So, I’d say that through Hadley sharing her story, Ernest has a big enough presence that I don’t need him to have any more voice than he already has. I want to clarify. I enjoy reading Hemingway stories. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a favorite. I want Hadley to have a complete book in her voice. It is her story.

Later in the book, Hadley shares that she feels she had the best of him-the early years before he was a famous writer.

Hadley is a wife who is very supportive of his work. She praises and encourages him. There is a point in the story where she finally has an emotional event. She has been supporting him. She has been giving her all to him. She lives for him. But she has had enough. She is emotionally frayed and starved. I’ve known several women, especially those from the previous generations who completely live for their husbands. Their feelings and thoughts and goals and desires are not really their own but their husbands. The wife has no hobby of her own. She has no work of her own. She has no other opinions but his. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. To lose oneself in another. And I dislike Ernest’s reaction to her emotional event. In essence, what she did was finally open her mouth and rise up and say no. No, she did not want him to go. And for this he was angry.

From the start, I immediately like Hadley. She is imperfect (as all people). Even though there is a vulnerability and sadness, I also see a strength that I don’t think she realized she had until later in life. I certainly have empathy for her.

I enjoyed reading about their life in Paris. Where they lived. The people they met. The places they visited, especially the travels to other countries.

I enjoyed reading about how his writing style evolved or transformed.

I enjoyed reading about the cultural changes starting in about 1921.

I’d certainly like to have read more about the Shakespeare and Company book store located on the Left Bank in Paris. It is mentioned but not in descriptive detail.

Hadley Richardson Hemingway Mowrer died in 1979.