As I mentioned the other day, I’ve had a hard time reading the past two weeks. Louisa May Alcott pulled me back from the scary edge of the cliff – again. When I was a child and starting a new school, not knowing anyone, Little Women came into my life and provided me with comfort and then courage. She did it this time with An Old Fashioned Girl. How can I not be an Alcott fan?
An Old Fashioned Girl focuses on Polly, the country girl who comes to the big city to stay for a while with Fanny and Fanny’s wealthy family. Both girls seem surprised at the differences in the customs, manners, and values of each other’s lives.
Polly, from the country, has plain clothes and loves the simple pleasures. Fanny lives for fancy outfits and keeping up with her social circle. She appears shallow and rather cruel. Polly also finds Fanny’s family members to be at great odds with each other, often quarreling and treating each other in a harsh manner.
Polly has been raised with strong values and a willingness to care for others. In simple, old-fashioned ways she helps the family learn to love and help each other.
The first half of the book was originally serialized in magazine format. The second half of the book occurs six years later when Polly returns to the city to pursue a career teaching music.
Although the book was a comfortable and fun read, it felt a bit too much like a Sunday School story. Ms. Alcott must have felt the need or perhaps was pressured into writing a moralizing story for children. If you can handle all that, this is a good story for understanding the manners and customs of the time. Also I think you might like the contrast between Polly and Fanny – interesting again for the time period.
An Old Fashioned Girl was originally published in 1869 but is now available at libraries and bookstores. I downloaded it for free on my Kindle.