Wow, it’s been a while since I have written a review! I actually finished Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott the second week of March. Glad I wrote a review on Goodreads so I didn’t completely forget what I thought of it!
I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. When I read Little Men earlier this year, it took me a little time to get really invested in the stories. But it was easier to get into this book. In fact, I was hooked from the beginning. I loved all the new stories about the boys from Plumfield as they grow up.
- I’ve mentioned before that I read and loved the Meigs biography of Alcott earlier this year. It was a great resource to understanding the inspiration for so many parts of this story. There is so many autobiographical elements in her writing and it was fun to catch them!
- I love the cover of the copy I found at Half Price Books last year. I’m now looking for the other two novels in this edition. You can’t own too many copies of your favorite books, right? 😉
Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott is the final chapter in the story of the March family. Goodreads summarizes, “Now college students, the [Plumfield] boys have evolved into complex creatures. Falling in love and making their way in life, they are faced with trials and tribulations. Emil’s career as a sailor runs into trouble as he is shipwrecked on his first voyage as second mate. Dan goes west to seek his fortune but soon finds himself in prison, but also in love with the unobtainable Bess—Amy’s beautiful daughter. Nat embarks on a musical career in Europe and thus leaves behind his Daisy. Tommy takes on medical school. Throughout it all Jo presides over her brood, counseling, comforting, and guiding her “boys.” Touching, moving, and tumultuous, this is Alcott’s writing at its best, with the reader heavily invested in her complex characters and their fate.”
“‘Young people seldom turn out as one predicts, so it is of little use to expect anything,’ said Mrs Meg with a sigh. ‘If our children are good and useful men and women, we should be satisfied; yet it’s very natural to wish them to be brilliant and successful.'”
Jo’s Boys, page 15
The stories are as engaging and endearing as Little Women. The focus is wider than in Little Men (which focuses more particularly on Jo and her school). We see a lot more of some of my favorite characters like Meg, Laurie, and several of Jo’s boys. I especially loved getting more from the lives of the original little women–Meg, Jo and Amy. Because I am currently raising children and understanding how motherhood changes, their experiences really spoke to me. I love seeing them grow up into such strong, optimistic, and loving women. I want to raise my children like they do. I loved Josie’s encounters with the famous actress and Tommy’s accidental engagement. And if I loved Fritz Bhaer before, I truly admire him in this novel. I was also surprised by the intensity of some of the stories, especially Dan’s and Emil’s. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see if Emil would be rescued or if Dan would find his way back to Plumfield once more. Dan nearly broke my heart right along with Jo’s at a few points in this novel. How I loved the reunion scenes when the world travelers returned home once more.
I also love the beautiful love stories in this novel. So many of Jo’s Boys have grown up into fine men, and I was so glad as they each found wonderful women to share their lives with. My favorite is Demi (or John as he is known as an adult) and his determination to succeed in business and his timidity in his love for Alice. I loved the courage and endurance of Emil and his surprise happily ever after. I absolutely adore Nat and Daisy for their simple, deep love and for all they learn while they are apart.
“Virtue, which means honor, honesty, courage and all that makes character, is the red thread that marks a good man wherever he is.”
“All this sorrow would seem wasted; but it was not, for it drew many hearts more closely together by a common grief, taught some patience, some sympathy, some regrets for faults that lie heavy on the conscience when the one sinned against is gone, and all of them the solemn lesson to be ready when the summons comes.”
“He forgets that love is everything.”
Jo’s Boys, pages 105, 219, & 268
This novel, like Alcott’s others, teaches such beautiful values and forwards a message worth teaching to children and adults of any age. Alcott doesn’t just write memorable stories. She writes stories that give readers morals, lessons, and leave them with a renewed determination to be better people. Some of my favorite lessons in this story are the importance of virtue and courage, the importance of learning from our mistakes and becoming better people after them, the value and deep healing process of repentance, and the importance of family no matter your circumstances.
I also fell in love with Alcott’s style and grace all over again. She has such a beautiful way with words. These stories are engaging both because of the subject matter but also because of her writing. She creates memorable descriptions of simple, everyday occurrences. I felt like I was with Jo as she talked with Laurie or watching a concert or painting with Bess. It all feels so true to life. Alcott teaches me that to be a writer, you don’t have to find some unrealistic, crazy idea. My favorite writers, like Alcott, write about what they know and feel. They write from the heart and from their own experiences. And I think that’s why I connect with her so easily.
This is an underappreciated series, and I’m so glad to have read the sequels to Little Women!