Little Men (by Louisa M Alcott)

I wanted something reasonably easy to read, on my Kindle, for an early morning flight. Scrolling through the books I had downloaded, I spotted a complete works of Louisa M Alcott, and decided to re-read ‘Little Men’. This is the third in her series about the American March family, following on from her well-known classic ‘Little Women’ and its sequel ‘Good Wives’.

This book is about the school for boys established by the former Jo March and her German husband Professor Bhaer. The opening chapter sees the homeless Nat introduced to the school, captivated by the friendliness of the other boys, and by the love of ‘Mother Bhaer’. Jo must be only about twenty-eight in this book, which takes place ten years after ‘Good Wives’, but she thinks of herself as middle-aged, and takes a variety of stray boys under her wing.

The Professor’s two orphaned nephews are the oldest boys in the school, and there are about half a dozen others, including the obese, gluttonous George, and the sharp, sometimes mean Jack. Nat soon makes friends with Tommy, who is full of mischief, and also the creative, story-loving Demi, son of Meg and John Brooke. The only girl in the school at the start of the book is Daisy, Demi’s twin, but her influence is seen to be so good that another girl, Nan - who is rather wild - comes to join them part-way through the book.

The author says in one of the chapters that, rather than having any real plot, the book is a series of vignettes of life at Plumfield. Some chapters just recount the happenings of the day, giving a glimpse into everyone’s lives. But there are also some extremely moving sections. I had tears in my eyes in the first couple of chapters, seeing the homeless, friendless Nat welcomed and given a new home, and hope. Later on, too, are some extremely poignant chapters alongside the more relaxed ones.

I had recalled only the vaguest outline of the story-lines, including some of the most significant ones involving Nat and Demi. But it was a delight to read it again; it felt as if I were among old friends. I was a tad shocked at Mr and Mrs March being considered old - I doubt if they were much over fifty - but then when I last read it, I probably considered that age to be quite old myself.

Inevitably old-fashioned, and perhaps a tad moralistic in places, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Definitely recommended, for teens who like this kind of historical character-based fiction, and nostalgic adults. However I would recommend reading 'Little Women’ and ‘Good Wives’ first.

(Note that since this book is out of copyright, there are many editions, both paperback and electronic. Ensure that you buy a full/non-abridged version if you want the original text, and check Project Gutenberg for various free electronic formats).

Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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