Rose in Bloom (by Louisa M Alcott)

I've always enjoyed novels by the American writer Louisa M Alcott. She's best known for her classic teenage story 'Little Women' and its three sequels, but she also wrote a few other books, which have mostly remained in print for over 100 years. I borrowed some from the library in my teens, and was then unable to find them until they were re-printed again recently.

'Rose in Bloom' is the sequel to 'Eight Cousins', which I re-read last week.

In this story, Rose returns from travelling abroad and finds that four of her cousins are adults. The aunts would like her to marry one of them, but Archie falls in love with Phebe, and Steve with Kitty. That leaves the dashing "Prince' Charlie, and the intellectual bookworm Mac.

Archie's love does not progress smoothly, because some of his relatives cannot forget Phebe's humble origins. So she decides to go away for a while and seek her fortune, singing professionally in choirs and teaching music. Steve has no problems with his romance, and Rose finds herself starting to fall for the attractive Charlie, despite his many weaknesses.

Uncle Alec, as always, is Rose's chief confidante and advisor, and Rose finds herself torn, when she sees Charlie continuing in his destructive lifestyle. Meanwhile, she determines to immerse herself in philanthropy, funding houses for homeless teenagers and orphans.

Although it must be well over twenty years since I last read these books, I found that I did remember the most shocking even that happens, although I had quite forgotten how it took place. I'd also forgotten most of the subplots, and also the slightly annoying moralistic tone that pervades the book. I suppose it was typical for the era - this was first published in 1975 - but despite Louisa M Alcott's feminism (for the time) and belief in healthy lifestyles, it seems extremely old-fashioned, rather prudish, and decidedly sexist.

As such, I very much doubt if it would appeal to the majority of today's teenagers, other than those who enjoy similar books, preferring old-fashioned romances to gritty modern novels. I enjoyed it - despite skimming in a few places - and am glad I was able to find it to add to my book collection, but would only really recommend it to people who enjoy other books by this author, and similar ones of the era.

Available in Kindle form as well as various print editions, and free as an ebook from Project Gutenberg.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 21st June 2009

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