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An enlightening, well-documented argument for why this novel is essential—will inspire readers to become acquainted or...

A history of Little Women coinciding with the 150th anniversary of its original publication.

When it was published in 1868, Louisa May Alcott’s novel became an immediate bestseller. Encouraged by her publishers to write a “novel for girls,” Alcott set her coming-of-age-story of four sisters during the Civil War and loosely based their struggles and aspirations on her own experiences with her three sisters. For countless generations of young readers, it has remained a beloved favorite as well as an influential touchstone to scores of aspiring writers. Yet this quietly groundbreaking novel has had more than its share of lukewarm responses from literary scholars, and it appears less frequently on high school reading lists compared to classics by noted male authors. Rioux (English/Univ. of New Orleans; Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist, 2006, etc.) writes, “in spite of Little Women’s elevation to canonical status, scholars still do not sufficiently acknowledge how key Little Women has been to the development of women’s literary traditions in the United States and abroad. It has been a foundational text not only in the history of women’s literature but also in individual writers’ very conception of themselves as writers and artists.” The author devotes the first few chapters to Alcott’s family history and early writing career, touching on the similarities—as well as the striking differences—between Alcott’s family and the characters in Little Women. Alcott endured considerably more challenging hardships than those depicted in the novel, which continued to fascinate in its many forms. Rioux provides an overview of the various film, stage, and TV incarnations, from the 1933 classic with Katharine Hepburn as Jo to the 1994 version by Australian director Gillian Armstrong (Rioux’s favorite). From the 1970s onward, the novel continued to draw closer ties to the evolving women’s movement, and its themes of ambition and empowerment have influenced such contemporary TV series as The Gilmore Girls and HBO’s Girls.

An enlightening, well-documented argument for why this novel is essential—will inspire readers to become acquainted or reacquainted with this influential classic.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-25473-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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