This novel has an interesting genesis. British editor Lydia Newhouse had the idea of writing about Jo March’s great-great granddaughters, combining their stories with found original letters by Jo. Gabrielle Donnelly won the commission to write the novel. Her author website, and particularly an interview in the About section, covers her love of the original novel (indeed, the original trio of novels) and her approach to creating this sequel.
The first 30 pages are available on Scribd.
Adult/High School– This tender homage to Alcott’s enduring classic is the perfect summer read for teenage fans of the original. This story presupposes that Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, as well as Marmee and Mr. March, are not fictional characters but actual ancestors of Emma, Lulu, and Sophie Atwater and their American mother, Fee, who now all live in London. There is sensible, organized Emma, about to be married to her dependable boyfriend, Matthew (readers will see plenty of Meg in her). Then there is the odd duck, Lulu, struggling to find her place in the family and in the world, and readers are sure to find more than a bit of Jo in her. Aspiring actress Sophie, the scatterbrained, self-centered youngest daughter, will bring to mind a young Amy March as she matures from the girl who sleeps with a clothespin on her nose to the caring, beautiful artist who marries Laurie at the end of Little Women. Jo March is the great-great-grandmother of the Atwaters, and when Lulu is sent up into the family’s attic to look for a long-lost recipe book that one of her great aunts wrote, she finds boxes of letters written by Jo and her sisters, including letters Jo has written to Beth, even after Beth’s death. The juxtaposition of Lulu and her sisters’ present struggles to cope with life as young, independent women in modern-day London with the problems and concerns that Jo and her sisters share in their correspondence works well here. The story is a bit predictable, but comforting, and certainly a step up from most chick lit. The only thing that detracts is the final letter of the book, which feels out of place and takes the quality of the story down just a small notch.––Caroline Bartels, Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY