A few weeks ago I was asked (for a writing blog) what fictional world I’d like to live in and why, and my immediate response was: “I’d like to live with the March sisters and wonderful Marmee.” As a tween, I was enchanted by Little Women and wanted to be Jo March. My own girl. Headstrong. Proud. Determined. Smart. Funny. Passionate. And: a writer. When Jo cuts off her hair to fund her mother’s trip to see their ill father, I was truly changed. Through Jo March, I learned you can be both selfless and true to yourself. I loved her, loved the book and film adaptions. And I love anything to do with Little Women. So when I heard about a new novel called THE LITTLE WOMEN LETTERS by Gabrielle Donnelly, I was intrigued and invited Gabrielle to share a bit about the book and herself on my blog. (The UK version, published by Penguin, has just been published. The U.S version is due out in early June–check out the US cover by visiting Gabrielle's website, hyperlinked below)
Introducing THE LITTLE WOMEN LETTERS by Gabrielle Donnelly
You loved Little Women. Now discover Jo March’s descendants…
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott's treasured classic, has been loved by women throughout the ages, the world over. This heart-rending tale about the Marches –a family that loses its wealth and gains much more: love and unity– touches readers as strongly as it did when it was first published in 1868, against the aftermath of the American Civil War. Now, Gabrielle Donnelly reopens a door to the tale that you’ve read, and reread, and imagines what Jo March’s descendants –transplanted to modern day North London– would be like.
When Josephine March’s great-great-granddaughter stumbles across her ancestor’s letters, the Little Women shed a glorious light on a new generation of sisters. The Atwaters are a loving, sprawling mess of a family and Fee’s three daughters, Emma, Lulu and Sophie couldn’t be less alike if they tried. Emma is planning her wedding, Sophie is an up-and-coming actress, but Lulu – the cleverest of them all – is more than a little lost. Grandma Jo’s letters had been gathering dust in the attic for decades, but when Lulu gets her hands on them, everything seems to change and different worlds begin to open up. And even though dark family secrets emerge, Jo’s words offer comfort and guidance across the centuries. Sometimes family is all that matters. And sisters are the closest friends you can find.
“Gabrielle Donnelly's The Little Women Letters radiates a rare warmth and charm that had me smiling from beginning to end. The characters absolutely live and the story is utterly compelling. I quite simply love Donnelly's voice!”
–Santa Montefiore, author of The French Gardener and The Mermaid Garden
My Q&A with Gabrielle Donnelly:
Q: Tell us about your novel
A: It's called THE LITTLE WOMEN LETTERS and it's a sort of modern take on Louisa May Alcott's much-loved classic LITTLE WOMEN. The main story is of three sisters, young women in their twenties living in modern London, who happen to be the great-great-granddaughters of Jo March. One of them finds a cache of letters that Grandma Jo had written to her own sisters when they were all young, so it's partly a modern novel and partly a behind the scenes look at LITTLE WOMEN and GOOD WIVES.
Q: What do you think women will most relate to about your book?
A: I hope they'll find it a good excuse to re-visit LITTLE WOMEN! I have yet to meet a Western woman who did not adore that book, and this is an examination of how three of the March sisters might have turned out if they had been born a century and a quarter later and in big, cosmopolitan London instead of sleepy little Concord, Massachusetts. It was a very interesting exercise for me to take the nineteenth-century characters and place them into modern society. Inevitably the modern girls have many more opportunities than the older ones. But they also face challenges that would never have occurred to the Marches … It's up to the reader to decide when and where she would rather have lived.
Q: What would most people be surprised to know about you?
A: I was born and brought up in London and although I have lived in Los Angeles for most of my adult life, I still sound as if I have never in my life travelled more than five miles from Hyde Park Corner. I don't know why this is: I love America, my husband is American, I eat American food and even use American vocabulary - I fasten my bathrobe with a tie and throw my garbage into the trash can with the best of them - but for some reason the accent just won't take. I occasionally try for the California drawl but all my friends fall around laughing and tell me I sound "cute." Which is not what I'm aiming for.
Having an accent is surprisingly boring. People feel compelled to comment on it, and while they usually do so nicely, there's really not much reaction I can provide beyond "Yes, you're right, I do sound different." I actually trained myself to say "tom-ay-to" in order to avoid the inevitable "Gee, I love the way you said that," which is a completely sweet thing for anyone to say, but good lord after you've heard it a few dozen times …! And then met my New York agent for a business breakfast in a highly sophisticated New York hotel, where I ordered coffee … orange juice … and a cheese and tom-ay-to omelette … only to have the waitress sigh and murmur plaintively, "Darn, I was hoping you'd say tom-ah-to."
You can't win.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabrielle Donnelly was born and brought up in London, where she worked as a journalist on women's magazines before moving to Los Angeles to specialize in show business journalism. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, and has been an ardent fan of Louisa May Alcott since she was a young girl. For more information, including where to buy, visit Gabrielle’s website.
I can’t wait to read the novel, which is on its way to my mailbox and will hopefully arrive just in time for the long weekend. Thanks to Gabrielle Donnelly for visiting the blog today. Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!