Thursday, May 30, 2019

Louisa May Alcott Strikes Home Again, and The House of Mirth Coming

Tomorrow, May 31st, I'll be posting my review of The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton for the May Classics Club Spin.
But I deviated from my plan on Memorial Day weekend. Somehow or other I allowed myself to get swept up in the very recently published  post-apocalyptic novel The Last by Hanna Jameson. Yes, I downloaded it onto my Nook and allowed it to consume me. It had some very interesting moments, but it was really just a smidgin above so-so, in my estimation. Of course I compare all of these post-apocalyptic novels to the stunner On the Beach by Nevil Shute. None can even come close to this masterpiece. Sounds like it won't be long before I reread it for the 4th time. (!)

This morning I picked up Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott and was delighted by it all over again. I think I read it when I was thirteen or fourteen. As I was reading the unabridged edition,  I can see why Puffin Classics have published an abridgement for younger readers (9-11).  That's because there is some really adult-world stuff going on in that book. At 13-14, I think that part of it really interested me. And it really intrigued me today.
Poor orphaned Rose, whose dear Papa died more than a year ago, has never really recovered from his loss. After spending a miserable year  at a boarding school, she is shipped off to live with her aunts and great-aunts on "Aunt Hill" in a coastal New England town. The six of them never stop arguing over how she is to be brought up, how to be treated, how to deal with her constant  illness, and so forth. She is very isolated living with these old ladies, becomes more sickly, and bored out of her mind.
Thank heavens, her Uncle Alec, the brother her Papa appointed as her one true guardian, finally arrives back from Calcutta to overtake his responsibility. And what a breath of fresh air! He encourages her to play with her 7 boy cousins, roughing and tumbling, he tosses all her get-well tonics out the window into the flower bed, replaces the "sickly person's diet" with good, wholesome food, gets her up and running around outdoors, and, of course, showers her with attention and loves her to pieces. And the aunts can't complain for Uncle Alec is a medical doctor. In a family conference, "adults only," he convinces them to stand aside, because he is the appointed guardian of Rose, and if after one year, she is not better off, then they are welcome to intervene. And so it is!   Loving it.
And Alcott has such a robust sense of humor in this one. Sheer delight!
I must read Rose in Bloom, the follow-up to this one, maybe later this summer. Have never read it.

By the way, the cover of Eight Cousins is one from a re-issuing of all of Alcott's novels in paperback by Little Brown in 1997. Little Brown was Louisa May Alcott's publisher originally.
There are really no good unabridged editions of some of her novels right now.
I happened to be working in a children's bookstore just outside of Boston in 1997 and these nice trade paperpacks, which came out just before Christmas, were immensely popular. I'd like to get (almost) a whole set. I say almost because I have a much-treasured edition of Little Women, published in 1966, given to me from my favorite "reading" aunt. I got this one through from a rare book seller. Got a good price for a "fine" copy.


  1. Eight Cousins sounds fun.

    On the Beach was really a great book. I tend to like such end of the world books. Too bad that you found The Last to be average, I looked it up and the premise sounds intriguing.

    1. Hi Brian,
      The premise of The Last IS intriguing, to be sure. It had some great moments, and then some lesser moments, in my view.
      Did you ever read the very highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel, The Road by Cormac McCarthy?? Most people think very highly of it, but it is a hard book to read.

  2. If you get a chance you should look at the film of The House of Mirth (2000). I must try to get a hold of an unabridged Eight Cousins.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Yes, the movie directed by Terence Davies. Actually, the afterword in the edition of The House of Mirth I was reading discusses this film--its strengths and problems. Most of the problems related to the casting. I recall most strongly that the review said the actress Laura Linney was "too nice" to play the evil-doer Bertha Dorset. That made me laugh. I will DEFINITELY watch it, though.
      And Katrina, I think that you would really like Eight Cousins. By the way, all the Cousins are New England-Scottish!!

    2. New England-Scottish, that is definitely a must for me. BTW some of the filming for House of Mirth was done in Glasgow, the grand marble staircase was filmed inside the City Chambers.

    3. I do believe in my heart that you would get a kick out of Eight Cousins. A few things stick out as being "too much stuck in the 1870s mind-set gender-wise" but otherwise forward-looking. Published first in 1874. Do look it up. It's a quick read.
      So glad to know that some of the filming was done in Glasgow. I absolutely MUST SEE this film!!!

  3. I am intrigued by The Last by Hanna Jameson, even though you were not so thrilled. Maybe someday I will give it a try, as I do like post-apocalyptic novels. But I won't rush to get it.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      You know, I wouldn't let my personal view of a book detract you from it. I personally thought that it was not as strong as The Wolves of Winter, which we both liked. But I would recommend you consult Goodreads and other reviews before you go by my opinion.

  4. I haven't read On the Beach but have read several others of his. I have a couple of others on my Nook so must get to them as several sound very good, he was such a class writer.

    Away at the moment so am behind with comments. We're in Surrey and went to see RHS Wisley today. Oh my goodness - Fab!!! I just wish it had not been so hot... and busy. Next time we go we'll go in the autumn and on a weekday!

    1. Hi Cath,
      Most everyone I know, and I don't know a single person who did not find that On the Beach was a great book, and as you know, to my mind, it was a masterpiece. Knowing you and your likes and dislikes, I believe you would really appreciate it and be glad you had read it.
      How wonderful to be in Surrey!! I will look up RHS Wisley. And exactly how hot were you? What on earth is going on with your weather?
      I scratch my head and wonder what is going on with ours. We have been cooler than normal this spring after a terribly long, cold winter. We lost all our chipmunks, our woodchuck, our raccoons (they're a menace--not sad about losing those rascals), a huge change. I'm so pleased a new woodchuck has moved in, a young one who is a dark brown chocolate. He's sheltering under the gazebo at night and for naptimes. I get such a kick out of our wildlife. We have tales galore.
      Do tell how hot it was!

  5. Eight Cousins is my favorite Alcott, and Rose in Bloom is also great. I have hardcover copies I think belonged to my grandmother and her sister. I wish I had taken better care of the dustjackets but even without they are still very attractive.

    The only Shute I have read is A Town Called Alice. I guess I should read the rest!

    1. I'm so glad that in addition to Eight Cousins that you also liked Rose in Bloom, which I hope to read sometime soon.
      I love the extended family coziness of the Clan in Eight Cousins--very heartwarming. And the love they all share is wonderful. It is definitely among my favorite Alcott novels.
      Oh, gosh!! How I loved A Town Called Alice! Another Shute good one, aside from the great On the Beach, is Pastoral, which is a love story. I read it so long ago, though. I must have been in my late teens. I really need to read all of Nevil Shute's books. He is so good.