This is the sequel to Little Women
and Little Men
, all by Louisa May Alcott
. In this story, all the children of the four sisters, as well as the ones brought up in Plumfield, are now grown up and faced with real world
troubles, in particular the choice of a profession and a lover. Everyone chooses different routes and faces different obstacles, and Jo, former teacher and mistress of Plumfield, helps each with her experience as much as she can. As could be expected, Jo's advice helps, but is far from able to prevent the youngsters (girls as well as boys, in spite of the title) from getting into scrape
s, sometimes terrible ones. However, everything goes mostly fine for the youngsters despite some misgivings, and each leads a useful life in the society.
Warning: spoilers below, in case you have read the book, or like to read spoilers (I do).
The former firebrand, Dan, is the author's favorite, and the part about him is arguably the most solemn, and sometimes sad, part of the novel. Dan is a rough, manly character with a kind heart that loves and hates with high intensity. He chooses to be a wanderer in the West and help the Indian people there to get what they deserve, which is a suitable profession for such a rough man. However, although he and Jo try their best to correct it, his impulsive nature still got the better of him once, which resulted in a year's prison time that almost ruined his whole life but for the help from various people, and his love for Mrs. Jo. After getting out of prison, he tried to conceal everything from Mrs. Jo, and became a worker in a mine, but the secret was finally revealed when he got injured in an accident in which he heroically saved many others, and was sent back to Mrs. Jo. Jo's misgivings can be expected, which is intensified by the hopelessness of Dan's newly found love, making this part the saddest of the novel. She forgave him like a true mother though, and various family members helped him to bravely continue his work for the Indians.
Those who have read Little Men may fondly remember the puppy love between Mrs. Meg's elder daughter Daisy and an orphan in Plumfield, Nat. Nat's musical talents are well nurtured now, and he is sent to Germany for further study, where the inexperienced fellow nearly loses himself in the fashionable society there, but his love for Daisy and desire to make the Plumfield people proud of him prevented him from sinking further, and he dragged himself out after much struggle (in contrast to Dolly and Stuffy, who sunk much deeper there). In my opinion, this is the most instructive part of the novel. As for his love, Mrs. Meg did not approve of the match at the beginning, thinking Nat not good enough for her precious daughter, but her mind is changed in time by the faithfulness of both parties.
The other pair in Little Men, Tom (formerly called Tommy) and Nan, fares differently. Nan becomes an independent and capable doctor with great interest in Women's Rights, and decides not to marry despite Tom's persistent attempts. After a lot of vain attempts, and even some years in a medical school against his own interest, Tom finally sees the light, gets back to the right profession for him, and in time finds a suitable mate.
Emil, Prof. Bhaer's nephew, becomes a sailor, as can be expected by readers of Little Men. He is as jolly as ever, full of nautical slang, but he proves to be a good sailor. In an accident on the sea, his braveness and altruism not only saved most of the people, but also won him a wife who is the captain's daughter.
Demi, Mrs. Meg's elder son, becomes a responsible man owing to his good upraising. He has had some trouble in choosing a profession, but finally settled down in the publishing industry. He also has his share of romance with Alice Heath, an honored student in the college founded by Mr. Laurie, and one as enthusiastic about Women's Rights as Nan; I won't give out the details, but I assure you it is quite romantic!
Josie, Mrs. Meg's younger daughter, is about 14 in this novel. Unlike her domestic sister Daisy, she grows up to be a tomboy with a passion for acting, kinda like Jo when she was young. She consulted a famous actress Mrs. Cameron for advice, with whose help she finally becomes a good actress herself. The way she approached the great actress is quite funny :)
The book dedicates itself to the youngsters mostly, but there is one chapter about Jo's writing life herself. She had become a famous and rich writer during the ten years before the story begun; the money bought much comfort, but the fame keeps giving her headaches, for her mailbox gets stuffed every day with praises, critics, requests, etc. expected to be answered promptly, and every day she gets tons of visitors, giving her barely enough time for writing, let alone time for her own and the young people. I guess the author write this to portray her own life as an established author, and with luck might prevent all these enthusiastic fans from asking for too much of her time.
Overall I find this book a must read --- it is about as good as Little Women. It is moralizing, yes, but that is done in a gentle way, and many of the principles there are still relevant now. The stories are interesting, too. Each chapter are relatively independent, so it is possible to skip around if you really want to do so.
This book is in Project Gutenberg, #3499.