After quite a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list, I decided to go easier on myself by reading some more of the children’s classics I have on my list. Earlier this year, I read the lovely Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, so it only followed that next I should read the 1886 sequel Jo’s Boys.
Beginning ten years after Little Men, Jo’s Boys revisits Plumfield, where Jo’s and her husband’s small, unconventional school has expanded, due to its success, out of their home into a purpose built college on the grounds. Sadly this does mean we lose the beautiful intimacy I loved so much and subsequently, we don’t get to know the new children half so well as the first cohort. However Jo’s original boys (and girls) are not gone and forgotten, as they keep coming ‘home’ on the holidays, special occasions and for surprise visits to let her know what they have been up to.
Through these wonderful reunions we are able to learn that Mr Bhaer’s strapping nephews, Franz is to be married and Emil is now a dashing sailor full of daring tales; the promising musician Nat is sponsored by Mr Laurence to travel to Europe; the wild Nan has grown into quite the lady and is studying to become a doctor, and has the troublesome Tommy as her adoring shadow; Jo’s sweet-natured nephew Demi is a budding journalist; and the rebellious Dan has been seeking adventure, riches and danger out West.
I really enjoyed these follow-up stories: seeing the boys (and girl) flown from the coup – trying to find their places in the world, making mistakes and learning valuable, often hard-won lessons. For such short reads, it is surprising how invested Alcott can make you! And as this is the last book, by the end, each of the ‘favourites’ is given a suitable ending: some happy, some satisfying, some with more promise to come and one a sad and regretful ending. The latter in particular did tug at my heartstrings, even though it was in character and fitting for him.
Finally, for you Jo March fans, there is progression, although not necessarily conclusion for her character too. She is happy in her marriage and her own two, very different boys, Rob and Teddy are growing fast. Reminiscent of Jo and her sister Amy, there is frightening incident between the two brothers, that ends up bringing them closer. Jo is also having huge success writing her adventure stories for children. However – reflective of Alcott’s own life – as well as the pleasure and income this brings, there is the pressure to write more, the weight of fame and the farcical moments of dodging trophy-seeking-fans who come to call!
So overall I thought Jo’s Boys was the nice, easy read I was looking for, and a sweet and fitting end to the series. Much like Little Men though, its only real downfall is that, well, it’s just not Little Women I’m afraid! Good read.
Have you read this? Have you read Little Women or Little Men?