Louisa May Alcott: An Old Fashioned Girl

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.

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13 Responses to Louisa May Alcott: An Old Fashioned Girl

  1. Hi, Margot — just an interesting (I hope!) tidbit. Louisa’s mother, Abigail, came from the very wealthy May family of Boston. Louisa took a lot of the stories that she had heard from her mother and used them to create the story of An Old Fashioned Girl. It’s rather interesting to think of Polly as more of an “Alcott”, living the Alcott country life and values — and Fanny as typifying the wealthy, cultured class Louisa’s mother came from (but with whom the Alcotts didn’t rub elbows for the most part!).
    Anyhow – glad you liked it! 🙂 -beth

  2. Mystica says:

    I hadn’t heard of this particular book so thank you for highlighting.

  3. Kay says:

    I loved this book as a girl (probably 10 or so). I haven’t read it for years and wonder how it would hold up for me now. Perhaps a good one for later this year. I remember it had numerous funny parts or so they seemed to me at the time. Good to hear your experience.

  4. I have never read any other Alcott besides Little Women. But providing comfort and courage is a pretty impressive recommendation!!

  5. Bumbles says:

    A Tree Grows In Brooklyn helped me through being the “new girl” in one of many moves I had to make growing up. Isn’t it interesting how these books became like a childhood friend helping us through the tough times?

  6. I need to get to work on the Alcott challenge, but I don’t think this is the book for me. It sounds a little preachy for my taste.

  7. Ti says:

    I find that whenever I am losing my reading mojo, a good classic always brings me back around. So glad you
    enjoyed this one.

  8. Tea says:

    Hi Joyfully Retired,

    I have an award for you on my blog. Miss seeing you.

  9. 1869, that just blows me away – so many treasured books out there that are written over 100 years ago and I still have not read them!

  10. kaye says:

    I’ve enjoyed your alcott posts very much.

  11. Staci says:

    Wouldn’t you love to sit down and chat with her. Ask her if she did indeed feel pressured to write this story in that way? I’m reading Little Women on my iTouch right now…loving it!

  12. I knew something would pull you back from the edge! I read the bio of Louisa “the Woman Behind Little Women” (back when I had a library card available ;>) — and she really was the breadwinner for her extended family. Sometimes I think she just needed to sell something for the money. But I would still re-read this book.

    BTW, I’m never going on a roadtrip again without a kindle!

  13. Belle says:

    I haven’t read this Alcott novel but I’ve been building quite a collection of classics I want to read on my Kobo reader – will definitely add this one, Margot.

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