Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott

Yes, it is way past my bedtime, but I always try to write my reviews right after I've finished a book, and I finished this one in just two sittings. Little Men, like Little Women, is a very charming, lovely novel, and a worthy successor to the first book in Louisa May Alcott's trilogy.

In Little Men, Jo is now married to a professor and has two young sons. She also, along with her husband, Fritz, runs the Plumfield School, a boarding school of fourteen boys and two girls. There are all kinds of personalities here at the school, but they are mostly orphaned, emotionally troubled, or have learning difficulties.

Nat is one of the boys, and he arrives at Plumfield at the beginning of the novel. He is an orphan who used to play the fiddle in the streets. He comes to Plumfield on the recommendation of Jo's old friend Laurie, who was her next door neighbor in Little Women. Dan is another orphan; he is much older, around sixteen or seventeen, and met Nat during their street urchin days. Tommy has a family, but is known as the "scapegrace" of the school and is constantly getting into mischief. It is implied that his family sent him to Plumfield in the hopes of acquiring some discipline and manners.

Demi is another one of the students at Plumfield; readers of Little Women will also know him as Jo's nephew or Meg's son. He is the bookworm and moral compass of the group. His twin sister, Daisy, is also a Plumfield student, and for a while, is the lone female. This changes when Nan enrolls at the school. While Daisy is refined and polite, Nan is a tomboy who likes to stir things up.

Alcott writes about all of these students, plus a few more, and their adventures over six months time. There is no real sequence to the story; like Little Women, Little Men is presented mostly as a series of vignettes. In spite of this, however, you do see character progression throughout the novel. For example, you get to see Dan mature from a tough, undisciplined fellow to a well-spoken, polite young man. Nan remains a tomboy, but Daisy helps her become less naughty.

Overall, there is one overarching theme: in spite of their differences, all of the students at Plumfield really love each other, and have particularly great affection for Jo and Fritz, whom the students know as Mother and Father Bhaer. There are occasional squabbles and scrapes, but each of the stories has a way of resolving itself in the end, with each character learning a lesson--very similar to the lessons that the four March sisters learned in each chapter of Little Women.

It is especially interesting to see how Jo has matured between Little Women and Little Men. In this book, Jo has entered the "Marmee" role, providing counsel, love, and support for each one of her students. She meets with each student every Sunday night and discusses their weekly reports in her "Conscience Book," a book which details all of the accomplishments, and possibly scrapes, that her students have done during the week. She has great affection for her boys, and often sees her girlhood self in some of them. The love and support that Jo and Fritz give their students is evident throughout the novel, and is what keeps the reader hooked.

I was left with the same warm feeling that I had after I finished Little Women. There is one last book in the trilogy, Jo's Boys, which I plan to start tomorrow. I'm currently finishing this at 1:39 AM EDT, and really can't stay up any longer. Besides, if I start Jo's Boys now, I'll get hooked and will possibly finish it by morning...but sleep calls!

This is the latest entry in my 2009 100+ Reading Challenge, my 2009 Read Your Own Books Challenge, and my 2009 2nds Challenge. As always, click on the buttons in the right sidebar for archived lists of all of my past reads!


Vickie said...

Oh my gosh!! I didn't know it was a triology! Two more books on my to be read list:)

Yup, it is past my bed time too.

ps. I tagged ya, check it out when you have time.

JulieChats said...

Ahhh, I remember reading this book, in fact I still have it & Little Women on the shelf waiting for my daughter to read them!

Stopping by late from VGNO!

Celia said...

You HAVE to read Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom next. I am so excited for you!

blueviolet said...

You must read at the speed of light!