Thursday, December 17, 2015

"The Quiet Little Woman" by Louisa May Alcott

The cover of this book says The Quiet Little Woman:  A Christmas Story, but it actually contains a novella and two short stories.  According to the introduction by Stephen W. Hines, Louisa May Alcott wrote all of them for a family of five girls who started their own little newspaper, much like the March girls in Alcott's novel Little Women.  This set of sisters didn't just share their paper with each other, though -- they got people to subscribe to it and earned money with their efforts.  Alcott applauded their initiative and sent them stories to publish as a way to encourage them.  These are three of those stories.

The Quiet Little Woman is a novella about an orphan named Patty who is industrious, honest, quiet, and plain.  She sees all the pretty, cheery girls find homes, but her turn never comes until one day, a family returns a girl they had taken on trial and takes Patty instead.  She isn't really adopted as part of the family, but is more of a servant who gets to live in the house with them.  They are kind to her in a thoughtless, forgetful fashion, assuming that because she knows she's not really part of the family, she doesn't want to be included in anything.  But they have a maiden aunt who sees Patty's loneliness and begins to exchange letters with her.  Eventually the whole family learns to value Patty when they come to realize she has as many feelings and emotional needs as they do.  

The next story is "Tilly's Christmas," about a poor little girl who find a sick bird on the way home and nurses it back to health even though her playmates laugh at her for showing compassion to a creature that can't repay her in any way.  Her rich old neighbor overhears her defense of doing good for goodness' sake and takes Tilly and her mother under his wing because he realizes he should do the same.

The last story is "Rosa's Tale," in which a horse gains the ability to talk on Christmas Eve, per the old folktales, and tells her life story to the young woman who came out to give her an apple as a Christmas treat.

These stories on a whole reminds me of the simplistic, idealistic stories I used to make up as a child.  Goodness and hard work are rewarded with gifts from a benefactor, and everyone makes up their minds to be better people hereafter. The Quiet Little Woman strikes me as sort of a happier version of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, "Tilly's Christmas" reminds me a lot of Beth March and Mr. Laurence in Little Women, and "Rosa's Tale" is very similar to books like Anna Sewell's Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders.  However, although they all contained familiar themes and storylines, Alcott's warm and compassionate writing is a joy to read, and I very much enjoyed this quick book.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Wholesome, child-friendly goodness.

I'm linking this to Carissa's Christmas Fiction Extravaganza!  This is also my second book for the Women's  Classic Literature Event and my 29th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club.


  1. I read this one last year! QUITE COZY. :)

  2. I love this book! It is one of my favorite Christmas books. I need to reread it, especially since it is Christmas time. :)

    1. Ekaterina, I'm so glad you love it! Especially since, IIRC, you won a copy from me earlier this year, didn't you? I love it when books find owners who love them :-)

      Merry Christmas!

  3. The story behind this book is so awesome! I love hearing about authors who inspire like that. :)

    1. Kara, I agree! I liked the backstory better than the actual stories.


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