Louisa May Alcott
Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys
"The Library of America has done a great service to Alcott lovers and nineteenth-century literature scholars alike by bringing Louisa May Alcott's March family trilogy together in a single, beautifully crafted volume. Insightfully edited by the incomparable Elaine Showalter, this is the best combined presentation of Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys that we could possibly have asked for."
—John Matteson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father
Asked by her publisher to "write a girls' book," Louisa May Alcott at first doubted her abilities; she confessed to her journal that she "never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters." Yet from this modest start, she fashioned a series of novels that catapulted her to fame and fortune in her own time and remain among the most beloved works in all of American literature.
Here, in an authoritative single-volume edition from The Library of America, are all three Little Women books as Alcott wrote them. This volume also includes the original illustrations, some drawn by Alcott's sister May, that accompanied the books' first printings.
Set in a small New England town during the Civil War and Reconstruction, Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (1868-69), introduces Alcott's remarkable heroines, the March sisters—above all, her alter ego Jo March, with her literary ambition and independent spirit. The novel chronicles the episodes, large and small, of the sisters' progress toward adulthood: their amateur theatricals, sibling rivalries and reconciliations, friendships and romance, and the loss of loved ones. Along the way, generations of readers have met a host of unforgettable characters: their watchful mother, Marmee; formidable Aunt March; kindly Mr. Laurence; and Mr. Laurence's grandson Laurie.
Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys (1871) brilliantly extends the March family saga. Jo—now married to the good-natured Professor Bhaer, and with sons of her own—has become the unflappable matron of an extended family at Plumfield, a school the Bhaers have founded with Aunt March's legacy. Jo's rambunctious youngsters grow up in an atmosphere full of high spirits and misadventure—a world enlivened by Alcott's unique powers of observation and sympathy.
In Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out (1886), her final novel, Alcott returns to the familiar precincts of Plumfield. Ten years later, Jo's pupils have started to make their way in the world, and they find themselves tested: Josie longs to be an actress; Emil, now a sailor, is shipwrecked; Dan, out West, lands in prison; Nat, studying music in Germany, is tempted into living beyond his means. Faced with new obstacles, they look back on the lessons learned at home and begin to appreciate the real value of their Plumfield education.
At once heartwarming and true to life, Alcott's novels will continue to win over readers both young and old, as they have for generations.
Elaine Showalter, volume editor, is Professor of English and Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University. She has written many books, including A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing and A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, and is the editor of Alternative Alcott. She lives in suburban Maryland.
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