Quick Take: Three sisters descended from Jo March of Little Women find their paths in present-day London.
Makes Me Want to Read: A sequel! I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Atwaters and would love to see them again in about 5 years.
My Thoughts: I’ve been trying to write this review since I finished the book in August. I loved the book so much and have been having trouble translating my feelings in to proper English. This will likely be one of my favorite books of the year. I’m not quite sure why I picked it up since I’m not a huge fan of Little Women, and when I think about contemporary fiction about sisters I think of schmaltzy novels that are not for me, but I’m so thrilled I read this.
This is a novel of love, sisters, parents and children, marriage and partners, friendship, food and finding your path. I read a chunk of it while weathering Hurricane Irene; it’s a perfect rainy afternoon read. Curl up with a cup of tea and the Atwater sisters, Emma, Lulu and Sophie.
Sophie is the Amy March sister–beautiful, dramatic (she’s an actress) and effervescent. The eldest sister Emma is the Meg of the trio: classy and always pulled together, she has a job she likes and is planning her wedding to a kind, wonderful man. Middle sister Lulu is the Jo–a bit awkward, a bit out of step with the rest of her family and the rest of the world.
It sounds like a story you’ve read before, but Donnelly created such wonderful, interesting characters, that it didn’t feel trite. I particularly loved the girls’ mother Fee, an American feminist pioneer who met their reserved British father when she was living on a women’s collective in Massachusetts (but it works, I swear), and Lulu’s best friend Charlie (half-Irish half-Italian daughter of wealthy hotelier Mr. Fitzcharles). The Atwater family and their extended network pulled me in the way the Walkers of Brothers & Sisters did: I wanted very much to join their family and I didn’t want to say goodbye when the novel ended.
We’re meant to empathize with Lulu, who’s a bit out of place, and finds solace in her great-great-grandmother Jo’s letters. I did love Lulu and could certainly relate to her, though the third person narration switches to Emma and Sophie as well, allowing us to relate and engage with each of the sisters from their own perspectives. I also felt a kinship for Emma–perhaps because I, too, am the first-born.
I became so immersed in the lives if the Atwaters that even though I finished reading several hours before bedtime, I didn’t want to leave the mood of the Little Women Letters by reading something else, so I began rereading from the beginning. I would love to spend more time with them and I highly encourage you to meet them, too.