Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This book is another for the Books I Should Have Read By Now challenge because I began reading the Anne of Green Gables books when the television show first aired on PBS back in the 1980s. I never finished the series because I found the novels becoming more boring, especially as Anne grew up. This book is also a classic so it is also a part of the Classic Bribe challenge as well.

Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery is the seventh book in the Anne of Green Gables series but, to be honest, this book is not about Anne and not even about her children.  The cover of the edition I read (see below) is quite deceiving.

Rather than being about Anne or her family, this novel focuses mostly in the Merediths, a family that has moved to Ingleside.  There is the father, hired to be the Presbyterian pastor who is so heavenly minded to be much earthly good, often losing himself in intellectual studies for the weekly sermon.  His sister lives with him to manage the household but she is not a good cook, sew, and doesn’t seem to know much about cleaning the home.  And there are the children who, due to lack of supervision and impulsive tendencies, often get into trouble, scandalizing the general community.

Rainbow ValleyThe role Anne herself plays is minor as she more often than not is shown merely listening to the gossip brought to her by Miss Cornelia.  Because of my own distaste for gossip, I found this literary affect unappealing and indicative of how boring Anne becomes as an adult.  Montgomery clearly doesn’t know how to write Anne into maturity in any way that keeps her magical.  Even her children, after the first few chapters, are relegated to minor roles because they are simply too well-behaved and loved to inspire much story from a writer who prefers children that get into trouble and find charming ways to get out of them.

Once I let go of may assumption that this novel would be about Anne and/or her children, I was able to enjoy this book as much as any of the earlier Anne of Green Gables.  Almost.  I still prefer Anne herself to most of the other characters Montgomery created.  In this, I suppose, I am not alone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys is the fourth book that seems to explore similar themes of an expatriate in Paris and how she struggles to survive.  It’s hard not to connect this novel with Voyage in the Dark, Quartet, and After Leaving Mr Mackenzie because the three women honestly feel more like the same person than they do distinct individuals.  I can see why Rhys had to contend with assumptions from readers that all four of these novels are autobiographical because the first two, she admits, are based on her personal experiences.

Sasha Jensen is desperate at the beginning of this novel.  Financially on the edge, she struggles to survive as she also tries to escape herself by transforming her appearance with a new dress or a new hair color.  No matter how far she goes, even returning to Paris in hopes of finding some solace in her life; unfortunately, she cannot escape herself.  And because of this, her despair soon manifests as depression.

The reader is more aware of Sasha’s reality than she herself seems to be.  She escapes, not only through spending money on her appearance, but also through alcohol and sedatives and her memories, which put her present depression into a context that makes her at least somewhat sympathetic.  It is not until Sasha meets a gigolo that she begins to fully reveal herself (to the reader and) to herself.

Given the overall tone of the first three novels, I was not surprised to find this one bleak and rather sad.  Rhys also returns to the first person which may explain why the narrator is more sympathetic than the previous protagonist.  I’m eager to read the next novel and consider this collection as a whole.  In the meantime, I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoyed the first three.

This is yet another entry in the BISHRBN Challenge.  I've participated in quite a few reading challenges in the past and I must say that this one is proving to be the most fun, perhaps because I feel like I'm working my way through a list of books that is endlessly growing.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron

The Places that Scare You:  A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron is one of those treasures that comes in a surprisingly succinct package.  Barely over 200 pages, Buddhist teachings are presented with just enough personal stories from the author to put some of the more abstract ideas into a relatable context.

Maitri is one of the several teachings Chodron explores and it seems everywhere I turn self-compassion is being touted.  Or at least it is in this book and this other book.  As Chodron interprets maitri as unconditional friendliness towards oneself.  It doesn’t take much to listen to the various thoughts that slip through the mind to quickly realize that we often say things about ourselves we would never consider saying to someone we love.  And it is this essential concept that Chodron uses to reinforce the first piece of a metta meditation practice.

For those who haven’t read my blabbering about metta before, the concept is simple.  You begin by repeating a series of phrases by focusing first on yourself.  Chodron invites the reader to change the phrasing she suggests:
May I enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May I be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May I never be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May I dwell in great equanimity free from passion, aggression, and prejudice. (131)
The author moves on to discuss the tonglen practice, another way of experiencing the compassion that removes the illusion of separation by entering into another person’s suffering through a meditation practice.

This is another of those books I wished I were reading with another person so we could discuss the ideas and concepts, perhaps put into practice some of the concepts, and share our experience.  Unfortunately, I read this book alone.

This is also a book I would eagerly recommend.  Unfortunately, I only have a single copy which I am choosing to send to my mother.  If I could, I would send copies to Rossana, to Saila, and to Janice.  And then I’d give a copy to each of my children.   And my local library so they would have a copy for the community at large.

Oh well.  It’s a very good book and worth reading if you’re remotely interested in learning about Buddhism or metta meditation or tonglen practice.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

March by Geraldine Brooks

March by Geraldine Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that gives the back story for the absent father from Little Women, imaging how he met “Marmee” and came to serve in the Union army.

I am not a Little Women purist by a long shot and after re-reading it recently, I thought it was about time I read this novel.  I have to say that I think Brooks’s novel is old fashioned in the same way that Alcott’s novel is.  While not nearly as archaic in tone nor as preachy, it is reads more like a traditional historical romance than anything else.

Uh oh.  Did I say “romance,” which we know is typically a kiss of death for yours truly?  Yes.  Yes I did.  The author certainly takes certain liberties with the character and eagerly shares more than a surface characterization, relishing the opportunity to strip them all down to their most flawed.  For better or worse, this novel may be inspired by the classic but definitely strives not to be traditional.

I can’t say that I necessarily liked some of the things Brooks decided to do with the story.  The elements that seem most old-fashioned, such as coincidences that seem entirely too convenient, define one type of novel but then she flaunts other traditions, picking and choosing what she thinks should work and discarding the rest.  I don’t know that she has honored the intent of the novel as much as I had hoped she would.

Brooks manages to create very interesting characters and if one can divorce them from the original and not try to elevate this novel above much more than a romance novel then it is quite effective.  March and Marmee certainly seem more human in this novel than they do in Little Women.  And minor characters, like Grace Clement and Ethan Canning, are well-rounded which is a testament to the author’s ability to create truly interesting characters.  The juxtaposition of his letters home, which gloss over the most brutal realities, and his actual experiences is obviously meant to be a pronouncement against war.

Personally, I never fully engaged emotionally with anything that was happening on the page.  March’s spiritual conflict and how he tries to protect his family seem to be more told than realized and the guilt he embraces for choices he makes are too stereotypical to really introduce anything new to the discussion of how war traumatizes and destroys the individual.  And I appreciate how Brooks weaves in many of the historical figures of the time but I don’t know that any of them are so relevant that the book wouldn’t have been just as powerful without their presence.  Albeit, I appreciate her explanation for how the March family went from being financially comfortable to struggling, something that is mentioned in Little Women but never explained.

Is this a good book?  Yeah.  Sure.  I guess.  I think if I liked the romance formula more I would like this novel more.  Is it worthy of a Pulitzer Prize?  I don’t think so but my opinion doesn’t determine who will and will not receive it.  Obviously.
Because there is some content within my reviews that is bound to contain spoilers, I have decided to post-date (by a decade) a continuation of reviews for those who have already read a book or are not concerned with spoilers.  These will be linked at the bottom of the review and you can choose to click them or not.
Here Be Spoilers

(Aside:  This book is included in my list of Books I Should Have Read By Now because I gave this book as a gift to the receptionist at one of my jobs.  She was a huge fan of Little Women and I was eager to thank her for the wonderful work she did and her ever pleasant attitude.  When I gave it to her I said, "You'll have to tell me if you like it and let me borrow it when you're done because I'm dying to read it."  That was back in 2005 and she never did lend me the book so here I am, six years later, finally getting around to reading it.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys is the third novel in the compilation book I’m reading as part of my Fifteen in 2011 and also as part of the BISHRBN Challenge.  In the introduction of Jean Rhys:  The Complete Novels, Diane Anthill says that Voyage in the Dark and Quartet are both loosely autobiographical but Rhys argued that Leaving Mr Mackenzie is not.  I can understand her need to explain herself because in many ways this novel seems to build upon similar themes of the previous two.  And although the three women in each novel are given different names, their experiences are practically strung together as if in a single narrative.

In this novel, we meet Julia, a woman who is older and living on a precarious edge.  Financially supported by a former lover, she is dismissed early in the story and must face the brutality of her situation.  Having flouted convention, she comes to realize too late that age is not kind and she can no longer hope to survive on looks alone.

Without wanting to give away too much, she is confronted at one point by the path she did not choose to take in the person of another character.  Would she have been happier if she had done what others considered proper?  Would she be more admired or loved?  And what do the answers to these questions do to determine the path of her life’s future?

This novel, unlike the previous two, has the brutality of florescent lighting.  If Anna (in the first novel) is portrayed in a complimentary candlelight and Marya (of the second) is at least in a softly lit pink light, Julia is standing naked and exposed.  There’s nothing flattering in this character’s portrayal.  I am fascinated by how Rhys manages to write about a character in so relentless a manner.  Did she have no sympathy for this woman?  Was she, perhaps, brutalizing herself, or who she might have been if circumstances had not been different for her?  I take her at her word when she says this is not even remotely semi-autobiographical but, given how it seems to so seamlessly flow from the previous two self-inspired novels, it is a curious thing to think about how this one has been informed by her own imagination and, possibly, her own fears about what might have been if not for happenstance.

I am sorry it took me so long to get around to reading this book because I’m clearly enjoying it very much.  No, it is not light or necessarily fun to read but it is so engaging, so interesting, and, yes, so very compelling that I find myself consuming the stories almost as soon as I begin them with a ravenous appetite.  Next, Good Morning, Midnight.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Goddesses in Older Women by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women Over Fifty: Becoming a Juicy Crone by Jean Shinoda Bolen is a follow-up to her wonderful Goddesses in Everywoman.  Rooted in Jungian psychology, Bolen once again visits the classic archetypes from Greek mythology to explore the experiences of older women, those who are in the third phase of their lives.

Bolen does not simply re-explore previously defined territory; instead, she draws on the mythology of goddesses from other traditions—Sekhmet (Egypt), Kuan Yin (Japan/China/Korea), Sophia (Jerusalem), and others.  The first half of the book is especially strong, suggesting new ways of being for a woman who is now transitioning into the final stages of life.  No longer a maiden or mother, a woman who carries her own wisdom can now give political rein to her anger or center herself in compassion and forgiveness, whatever best serves the self and the community in which she lives.

The third part of the book returns to the Greek goddesses of her previously published book, suggesting ways in which such goddesses as Athena, Persephone, and even Aphrodite still lend their influence in a woman’s life.  While interesting, some of this content is redundant, not because so much of it has already been discussed in the other book but because Bolen repeats herself within this one book, sometimes even within the same chapter.

No woman is likely to recognize herself in every one of the goddesses and it can feel sometimes like one has to read through a lot of “other stuff” before getting to anything relevant.  For another reader the experience may be completely different as some of the earlier goddesses may be the ones with which one resonates and other ones are merely filler.  I mention this because I found myself bored at times through no fault of Bolen’s writing or choice of content.  It is, after all, human nature to want to see one’s self on the page as much as possible and when I did not feel drawn to a particular archetype I was eager to move onto the next one.

The final chapters suggest a third wave of feminism that is spiritual in nature, building upon the foundation of the first wave suffragettes and the second wave equal rights activists.  These third wave women are presumably gathering in circles where a more democratic way of being in community is shared by one and all, where juicy crone women are sharing wisdom and carrying this out into the wider community.  I don’t know how true this is for I have not personally witnessed this nor have I met any women who are of that age who belong to anything like this.  I doubt that Bolen is referring to the Red Hat Society or wicca groups that are less ecumenical in scope.  No.  More likely she’s talking about such organizations as the Crone Counsel (which ironically met in Atlanta GA in 2009), something that embraces women of all races, classes, and beliefs.

For the Jungian woman “of a certain age” this book will be interesting and insightful.  Perhaps even inspiring, supporting the possibility of allowing other formerly neglected archetypes to manifest.  For those who are not interested in the idea of archetypes, it’s probably best to skip this book and find another one on embracing the crone self.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quartet by Jean Rhys

This is the second entry in the Books I Should Have Read By Now Challenge and one of the books I'm reading for my Fifteen in 2011 commitment.

Quartet by Jean Rhys is another semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman whose husband is arrested, leaving her without any financial or emotional security. When a couple offers to let her live with them, she accepts the offer and is seduced into a peculiar arrangement that results in her gradual unraveling.

I don’t know if it’s because Rhys writes this story in the third person but there seems to be an emotional disconnect and one doesn’t feel the same intimacy or even compassion for Marya, the protagonist in this novel, as one does for Anna, the narrator of Voyage in the Dark. She marries a man she hardly seems to know and then is blindsided when he is arrested for selling stolen artifacts. She accepts the seemingly generous offer of the Heidler’s even though she doesn’t especially like them and has immediate misgivings. Even the conclusion is removed from the immediacy of her experience.

Because the story is written in third person, the story lacked the poetry of the previous one. I think this is an effective choice because I don’t know that Rhys necessarily wanted the reader to like anyone in the novel. Or if she did, she succeeded only in creating a group of characters who inspire little sympathy or admiration. Marya alone seems worthy of compassion but sometimes that shifts into pity, a far less empathetic response. I am looking forward to reading the next novel.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility is the first published novel by Jane Austen.  A few months ago I read Austen’s juvenilia and I am endeavoring to read through Austen’s work in order of publication.  I’ve read all of her published novels before so this is at least my second time reading this novel and, to be honest, I’d pretty much forgotten just about everything.  I knew that there would be a happy ending which means, when one is reading a romance novel, marriage.

It’s typically this novel and Pride and Prejudice that make one feel “if you’ve read one Jane Austen novel you’ve read them all” for there are many of the same qualities.  Two sisters who love one another dearly are left without a promising inheritance and, therefor, must make a good marriage or be (perish the thought) spinsters.  Elinor exemplifies sense, rarely reacting to anything or anyone, maintaining an equilibrium throughout.  When overcome with emotion, she withdraws for a while until she is once again able to compose herself.  Her sister, Marianne, on the other hand, is highly responsive, driven by her emotions and her emotional ideals.  Both sisters make ideal matches that complement their innate natures and presumably live happily ever after.

And that should be that, right?  I mean, what more can one say about an Austen novel?

There is a curious sexual politics that I noticed this time upon reading the novel.  Austen seems to be promoting the sort of absence of passion that has often been used to belittle and denigrate women as “the weaker sex.”  Bearing in mind that women were often (mis)treated for hysteria simply because they expressed their sensibilities, that the idea of “sensibility” itself implies a compassion or empathy, an intuitive, albeit emotional, responsiveness, it is interesting to ponder whether Austen was necessarily decrying the natural emotions or not.  After all, Marianne, of the two sisters, makes the more profitable match.  However, Austen is quoted as saying that Marianne would come to realize the error of her ways and it is not her sensibility that leads her to happiness so much as her plain good sense.  (I wish I could cite the quote.  Unfortunately, it is something I read in passing ages ago and now I cannot recall where.  If you can tell me the book and page, I’d be grateful.)

I suppose I’m just trying to find something interesting to say about this novel because, really, one doesn’t turn to Austen in search of feminist themes and, no matter how I twist and turn the text, it is merely a romance.  But in light of my typical distaste for romance novels, I still find myself delighted whenever I read Jane Austen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids by Patti Smith is a memoir about her years before she became famous, during the turbulent years when she was in a loving, lovely, and often complex relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.  That is on the surface.  On another level, this memoir serves as an homage to a particular place–Brooklyn and the lower west side of Manhattan–and time–the 60s into the 70s.

All of the players enter the stage at some point.  From Andy Warhol to Allen Ginsberg to Jimi Hendrix to Janis Joplin.  All the essential places are mentioned as well.  Coney Island.  Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s.  Horn and Hardart.  The Strand.  And the historical events that held deep relevance at the time including the first moon walk, the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, the Manson family murders, the deaths of various rock icons.

These all weave in and out of a story about a young girl who fell in love with a young boy and how the two grew as artists.  Smith’s poetic voice comes through the prose as she shares the vulnerability the couple experienced, how they fought to fulfill their artistic visions and experienced conflict when one vision did not align itself with the other.

There is a lot of conflict, obviously, as Mapplethorpe’s own sexuality becomes a point of conflict, as Smith tries to find enough work to support them both, as sacrifices and compromises are made to the greater good.  Aside from the famous names, there are others who come into and out of their lives and not a single person mentioned is wasted for the meaning they give to the story is either explicitly revealed or blatantly implied.

However, above all else, this is a love story about a boy and a girl and how, even as they grew apart, they maintained that loving connection one with the other.  There are a few photographs shared throughout the story although anyone hoping to see some of Mapplethorpe’s more salacious works will have to look elsewhere.  That Smith addresses his works at all is a testament to her deep rooted love and acceptance and her utmost honesty for she expresses clearly that some of his images her discomfiting for her.  But the two so beautifully love one another through the differences, embracing rather than denying them.  A love story, a pure and simple love story, if love is ever truly pure let alone simple.  And a celebration of relationship, of art, of life.  A joy to read.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Intensive Care for the Nurturer’s Soul by Hueina Su

Intensive Care for the Nurturer’s Soul: 7 Keys to Nurture Yourself While Caring for Others by Hueina Su draws on the author’s own experience as a professional caregiver (she was a nurse), parent of two children, and professional coach.  Filled with personal insight and occasional stories from her clients, Su explores the complications that come with caregiving while offering practical suggestions for how to make small changes that can have big results.

She points out the obvious:  In order to truly nurture others one must nurture one's self.  With the use of journaling prompts, the reader isn’t offered a one-size fits all solution to the stress that often comes with caregiving.  Instead, through reflecting on the page, the reader can come to their own conclusions, recognize things that need to change, and even reach out for help when necessary.

Su shares candidly about her own struggles, including overcoming the fear of writing a book in a language that is not her own.  Yes, there are times when the syntax exposes that she is not a native English speaking writer (and if she reads this review, I’m available to help edit any future books to remove these things) but her eloquence outshines many other self-published writers I have read.  I like this book enough to share it with others and will be sending a copy to a friend I feel will benefit from its deep wisdom.

Monday, June 6, 2011

family by Micol Ostow

family by Micol Ostow is a young adult novel which, according to the back cover is “loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969.”  Frankly, I think the publishers are playing loose with the use of the word “loosely.”

Okay . . . Charles is Henry, a seductive and manipulative man who gathers young adults around him, on a ranch.  It is the 1960s or is it?  Charlie, I mean Henry talks about Woodstock as though it were a past event so this would suggest that the events take place in 1970 or beyond.  And remember, this novel is “loosely” based on the true story.

But the novel is more about Melinda Jensen, a young girl who runs away from home and is discovered in Haight-Asbury by Henry who lures her into her free-loving community.  There Mel is befriended by Shelly, a young girl who reflect Mel’s own shattered self.  The bond between the two girls is what keeps Mel rooted in the unreality of the security she feels she’s found within this ersatz family.

The word ersatz crops up in the story as do many of the metaphoric images, echoing throughout the text in a cantatory manner.  The narrator cycles around her own story, figuratively and literally running away from her past, desperately broken and hoping that Henry and the other family members can somehow pull her together again.

The lifestyle and many of the events that occur throughout the novel are so close to the truth it hardly blurs the line between “loosely based” and following in the footsteps of Capote and Mailer in writing nonfiction novels.  The issue I have with the novel is that Ostow stays so close to what happened—from Manson’s musical ambitions to the use of “Helter Skelter,” the “facts” of the novel are drawn directly from the historical facts.

Ostow does bring her own twist to the climax and I suppose it is effective but not nearly as effective as her choice to tell this story in verse and the narrative voice which retains a certain lyrical distance, which makes sense when the narrator is trying so desperately to distance herself from her past.  I would have liked Ostow to be more creative in her choices, to truly create a new “family” and a different type of climactic shattering of the narrator’s fantasy.  However, I can’t fault it for not being very well written.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

This is the first novel in The Complete Novels of Jean RhysThis novel is one of the Fifteen in 2011. It is also the first of the 3 books per month I'll be reading for "Books I Should Have Read by Now" Challenge (heretofore referred to as BISHRBN Challenge)
Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys is supposedly a semi-autobiographical novel that, if you ask me, is short enough that I honestly consider it more a novella.  The story is simple–a chorus girl goes out on a double date of sorts and gets caught up in a relationship that is doomed before it even begins.  The consequences of what happens next, the final climactic choice she must make, are all told through an interesting first person voice.

It is immediately apparent that Rhys is embracing the use of psychological insight and stream-of-consciousness throughout the novel.  The narrator, Anna Morgan, remains somewhat enigmatic throughout, thinking her way through her circumstances.  It is almost as if the reader has more feeling for her regarding her situation than she herself, as she tries to survive by distancing herself.

I found myself reading this novel and thinking that it reminded me a lot of Anais Nin’s Spy in the House of Love.  The tone and mood are solid throughout and the story pathetic in the purest sense of the word.  If Anna doesn’t feel her experiences deeply as she over-analyzes everything, the reader is allowed to feel for her, knowing the writing is there on the wall and wishing it were otherwise.

A lovely evocative novel but not one I think most people will like.  Which is probably why I did.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was chosen by the banned book group because it’s been challenged for its traditional portrayal of gender roles, specifically the role of women in the home.  Like most American women, I read this novel as a teenager and I remembered liking it very much.  It’s always interesting to revisit an old friend and see how well it holds up.  Here is what I discovered.

I didn’t like her when I was younger but as an adult I found her more amusing and even relatable.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been married and know the vagaries of starting a home, the promises we make and inevitably break, and the ways that we try to do the right thing but occasionally act more selfishly than we should.  Whatever the reason, I liked Meg and found her most interesting in Part Two when she comes into her own.

I’ve always liked Jo and I think that most girls who read this novel end up liking her.  I still like her.  Perhaps I even like her more.  I know that some people don’t understand a decision she makes in the novel (no spoilers, I promise) but I wasn’t upset or surprised by it before and, upon rereading it, I can all the more agree with her decision.  Good for her.

Dear, sweet Beth.  Am I the only one who finds her dull?  I didn’t find her interesting enough to remember much about her because she’s just so darn perfect.  And perfect is boring.  She’s shy and childlike throughout.  Certainly, she is in many ways a balance to Jo’s more outrageous personality but in the end she’s tedious.  She was then.  She remains so now.

As much as I disliked Meg, I truly didn’t like Amy whatsoever and had a long list of reasons why I found her annoying and would never ever want to meet someone like her.  I thought her foolish and vain, pretentious and completely distasteful.  In real life, I’d want nothing to do with her.  Now, upon rereading the novel, I find her to be charming and possibly the only character that truly develops throughout the novel.  The other three sisters remain who and what they are from beginning to end but Amy grows, developing a quality of character that proves her maturing into an interesting young woman.

As for the novel over all.  It is charming and quaint.  Frankly, it is so old-fashioned and reads the way it was meant to be read–as a serial.  Each chapter published in a newspaper pretty much stands on its own, telling a single story in the overall narrative plot.  There are no cliff-hangers.  What I didn’t remember, and I find this most amusing, is that the novel is so moralistic and downright preachy.  You get the feeling that Alcott wrote most of it with an agenda and then, when others perhaps criticized her for being overly didactic, she comes to her own defense through Jo’s experiences.

Which is why I said it is “so old-fashioned” because the chapters sound like something out of a McGuffey’s reader.  Even Dickens managed to thread his chapters so that they wove more smoothly together and his writing could be tedious to read.  And yes, the women’s roles are very traditional from beginning to end with Jo being the only one who has the potential of being something more.  It is surprising, knowing that Alcott grew up in a home that was very much in support of the suffragette movement (as well as abolitionists) and given how her own life and lifestyle were far from traditional to find this novel so lacking in contemporary relevance let alone contemporary style.

Would I mind if my child read this novel?  Certainly not.  I probably wouldn’t even want to discuss it to ensure that more modern standards are appreciated.  I wouldn’t have to.  It’s too, too obvious.

So charming.  Quaint.  Old-fashioned.  And I see why I never read any of the sequels.
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