22/09/2018

Rose in Bloom (by Louisa M Alcott)

Since I re-read ‘Eight Cousins’ by Louisa M Alcott a couple of months ago, it was time, I decided, to re-read its sequel, ‘Rose in Bloom’. I vaguely remembered the storyline, but it’s nine years since I last read it, and I had forgotten most of the detail.

Rose, in this book, has just returned to the ‘Aunt-hill’ after a couple of years of travelling with her guardian, Uncle Alec, and her best friend - and former housemade - Phebe. Phebe has received some training in singing, and hopes to earn her living that way. Rose has visited several places of interest in Europe, but has finally decided to go back home.

Four of her seven cousins are now presentable young men, and Rose doesn’t know quite how to relate to them any more. Archie, the eldest, is more interested in Phebe than he is in Rose, and Steve is keen on Kitty, one of Rose’s local friends. Mac, who has always been studious, is a classic ‘nerd’ long before the term was coined, with his nose always in a book, talking philosophy and poetry, and also studying medicine. But Charlie is a gentleman of leisure, determined to make Rose fall in love with him.

Unfortunately, Charlie has been brought up to be quite selfish, indulged by his mother Aunt Clara. Louisa M Alcott seemed to believe that nurture was more important than nature in the life of any young person; Charlie’s evidently a lover of life, and something of a risk-taker, as well as being very sociable and easily led. Rose disapproves of Charlie’s lifestyle, which she finds too shallow.

However Rose herself decides that it would be fun to spend a few months being frivolous, attending balls until late, and not doing anything useful. So she does this as an experiment, usually squired by Charlie who loves to party, and rumours start to spread…

As with the earlier book, ‘Rose in Bloom’ is a series of incidents rather than having any overall plot other than Rose deciding what to do with her life, and who to marry. The author was quite keen on education for women, and lives being useful, but even she seemed to feel that, after marriage, a woman’s place was in the home.

There’s a fair bit of moralising too, but given the age of the book (this was first published in 1876) some of her beliefs are quite radical. She evidently saw much that horrified her about the way some impoverished people and orphans were treated, and gives Rose the ability to help some of them. Phebe, too, is not considered good enough for Archie by some of the aunts, as nobody knows who her parents were; but it’s made clear that this is unpleasant snobbery.

I had forgotten one tragic incident and shocking in the middle of the book, which happened just as I had begun to wonder if I had mis-remembered the eventual outcome. I’m not sure I entirely believed the way Rose and others in the family recovered so quickly from the trauma, but perhaps in days when life expectancy was short, and medical knowledge scant, it wasn’t so unusual.

I’m glad I re-read the book, which has a satisfactory outcome, but some of it felt a bit too moralistic. Recommended to teenagers and adults if you have read and enjoyed ‘Eight Cousins’, and like gentle fiction of this era. But I don’t think this is as good as ‘Little Women’ and its sequels, nor my favourite of this author’s books, ‘An Old-Fashioned Girl’.

Long out of print, so re-printed in various editions, and also available free or inexpensively in Kindle form.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me about “An Old-Fashioned Girl”. I must download it and reread!
Pam