28/11/2017

Marjorie's Three Gifts (and Roses) by Louisa M Alcott


I was going away for a week, with rather an early morning flight. I wanted something light to read that wouldn’t tax my brain too much. Scrolling through my unread Kindle books, I found this one by Louisa M Alcott, best known for ‘Little Women’ and its sequels. I must have downloaded it some years ago, in a free edition.

I’ve had somewhat mixed feelings about Alcott’s lesser-known works that have only recently been published in ebook form, but guessed from the title, ‘Marjorie’s Three Gifts’, that it was most likely a children’s book.

I was correct in my assumption. The story, written at the end of the 19th century, is about a girl on her twelfth birthday, remembering a fairy story about three wishes. Marjorie lives with her grandmother, and we meet her sitting on her doorstep, shelling peas and daydreaming about wealth, happiness and a handsome prince.

She is distracted by an old man who asks for her help with his horse, and then, later, by a beautiful woman, drawing in a field. Is she dreaming or are they real…? It’s never made entirely clear. However the later part of the story, where Marjorie discovers what her friends think about her, is delightfully done.

Essentially this is a barely disguised morality tale about the importance of hard work, helping other people and being grateful. But Marjorie’s personality is nicely drawn, and it was easy to empathise with a little girl dreaming big dreams, and then realising that she has everything she could want, in her home and loved ones.

It was a very short book - more a short story - but to my surprise there was another story of similar length in the same Kindle book. The second one is simply called ‘Roses’. In this we meet someone in much direr poverty than Marjorie. Lizzie is an orphan who works as a delivery girl, out in all weathers. We meet her as she is taking an expensive and flamboyant bonnet to a spoilt rich girl called Belle.

Belle is shallow and extravagant, but she’s not hard-hearted. When she sees how Lizzie is shivering in soaking wet clothes, she talks to her, and invites her to get warm. She even gives her some old boots, and some roses. Then disaster strikes…

The plot then moves forward several years, and we meet both Belle and Lizzie again. This time, Lizzie is able to help Belle. This story, too, demonstrates the importance of hard work and thankfulness, contrasting the contentedness of Lizzie, despite some terrible life circumstances, with the discontent and self-centredness of Belle, even though she has never wanted for anything.

As a pair of short stories intended for girls of around 11-13, I thought these worked rather well. I know of some young people that age who would probably appreciate them, although the language is inevitably dated and the morals rather obviously put. Still, avid readers who like historical fiction of this kind would probably like these.

Recommended in a low-key way - if this interests you, look for the free Kindle editions at Amazon or Project Gutenberg.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

No comments: