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2019 Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge | Halfway Update

<< The 2019 Challenge has ended. You can read my Wrap-Up here. >>

Despite feeling like June just started, we are now closer to the end of it than the beginning. I’ve decided to use this [just over] halfway point to talk about my progress with the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge. You can learn more about this Challenge in my introductory post and at In The Bookcase; otherwise, keep reading for my thoughts on Rose in Bloom so far.

First – logistics. This story is 248 pages long, and I am on page 127. I did think I would be further along (or finished) by now, but at least I’ve reached the halfway point. Admittedly, this story is sort of putting me into a reading slump. I want to keep reading it, because I love Louisa May Alcott’s writing, but the actual story is just not drawing me in like I want it to.

If you are not familiar with Rose in Bloom, it is the sequel to Eight Cousins, which I read for this Challenge last year. Rose is our protagonist, and in the first story she is brought to live with her Uncle Alec after being orphaned. She is in close contact with her aunts, uncles, and all male cousins, and it was quite enjoyable to read about the adults and children learning, growing, and developing trusting and healthy relationships with each other. Sadly, I am not having quite the same experience with the second installment. This is both a drag and a little interesting, because the reasons I’m not loving it have to do with Rose’s main struggles: navigating upper class society as a determined, independent woman with the weight of the family’s expectations on her shoulders. I much preferred the playfulness and sweet lessons in Eight Cousins, when Rose and her cousins were still children. And although the personalities of the cousins – now more developed – create excellent banter and entertaining scenes, Rose’s conflict, or the conflict created by her elders, is a bit uninteresting to me. Maybe if her love interests weren’t her cousins I would want to be more invested. I also just read an intensely heartbreaking chapter, which has made me feel quite blue about the whole story.

Even with degrees of subjective and objective discontent, there are some quotes from Rose in Bloom that really captured my attention.

“Something sweet yet spirited about her charmed them and piqued their curiosity; for she was not quite like other girls…”

If you have a literary example of “she’s not like other girls” that predates 1875, let me know. Otherwise, we have Louisa May Alcott to thank/grumble at for its overuse in today’s [young adult] novels.

“‘To me there is something almost pathetic in the sight of a young girl standing on the threshold of the world, so innocent and hopeful, so ignorant of all that lies before her, and usually so ill prepared to meet the ups and downs of life. We do our duty better by the boys; but the poor little women are seldom provided with any armor worth having; and, sooner or later, they are sure to need it, for every one must fight her own battle, and only the brave and strong can win…I’ve done my best to fit Rose for what may come, as far as I can foresee it; but now she must stand alone, and all my care is powerless to keep her heart from aching, her life from being saddened by mistakes, or thwarted by the acts of others. I can only stand by, ready to share her joy and sorrow, and watch her shape her life.’”

Rose’s Uncle Alec is pragmatic and supportive of Rose, and while sometimes his guidance has the potential to feel stuffy, this admission (to another one of Rose’s Uncles, Mac) is another example of his admirable and realistic self. I think it’s something every parent faces at a certain point in their child’s life; a message that still holds true over 100 years after Louisa May Alcott expressed it in this story.

“’The whole thing was deuced disagreeable,’ growled Steve, who felt that he had not distinguished himself in the late engagement.
‘Truth generally is,’ observed Mac dryly, as he strolled away with this odd smile.”

Mac is my favorite character in this story, and this is one of my favorite short, quippy moments so far.

“‘It is so good to be at home again! I wonder how we ever made up our minds to go away!’ exclaimed Rose, as she went roaming about the old house next morning, full of the satisfaction one feels at revisiting familiar nooks and corners, and finding them unchanged.
‘That we might have the pleasure of coming back again,’ answered Phebe, walking down the hall beside her little mistress, as happy as she.”

Phebe is just so delightfully wholesome.

So there is my update on Rose in Bloom. I am going to try to finish it this week, and then I’ll get started on Work, which I understand is more of an autobiographical novel with societal commentary. Wish me luck!

And if you have read any of these stories, or are also participating in the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge, let’s chat below!


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