Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Donnelly's (The Girl in the Photograph) latest chronicles the lives of the descendants of Louisa May Alcott's March family. Specifically, Donnelly explores what the great-great-granddaughters of the dynamic Jo would be like. Sisters Emma, Lulu, and Sophie are all as different as can be, but they struggle equally to determine what types of lives they want. Lulu in particular feels she doesn't have the same luck in love as her older sister, Emma, nor the same direction for a career as her younger one. When Lulu stumbles upon the letters of Jo March, a new world that is different in time but similar in its themes is revealed to her as well as a kinship to the relative she never met. VERDICT Donnelly starts with a great premise, but readers have to keep track of lots of characters. The dialog and plot are sometimes slowed by contrived transitions. Still, fans of Little Women may enjoy this reinterpretation.-Anne M. Miskewitch, Chicago P.L. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Modern women have much to learn from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, or so Donnelly seeks to prove in a debut novel that contrasts the contemporary Atwater sisters with distant ancestors Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. The present-day Atwater clan consists of sensible oldest sister Emma, smart-mouthed middle sister Lulu, and aspiring actress Sophie, the perky youngest. As the novel opens, Emma prepares for her wedding; Lulu feels adrift; and Sophie moves in with Lulu and her roommate, Charlie, a young woman the Atwaters regard as one of their own. Lulu finds her great-great-grandma Jo's correspondences in the attic, revealing numerous similarities between the Marches and the Atwaters. Like the Marches, the Atwater girls are independent yet eager for love, vivacious yet genteel, and letters written 150 years ago begin to inform Lulu's life today. Donnelly's novel is much the same, though it occasionally loses focus. Actually, Donnelly is at her best when she abandons Alcottian gentility to describe Sophie's appearance on a TV melodrama. Donnelly's light, spirited tale about modern women with old-fashioned values benefits from its colorful Islington, London, locale. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Sensible office administrator Emma Atwater is planning her wedding, gorgeous 22-year-old Sophie Atwater is launching an acting career, and Lulu Atwater is drifting aimlessly through a series of dead-end jobs, trying to decide how her sisters managed to become grown-ups without telling her how it's done. When Lulu's copious amounts of free time lead her to her parents' attic to hunt for an old book of recipes, she discovers a dusty set of letters from Josephine March, Lulu's great-great-grandmother. Expanding on episodes familiar to anyone who has loved Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Donnelly's The Little Women Letters imagines how modern versions of the March sisters might have lived. Donnelly's homage is respectful without being obsequious, and frequent allusions to Alcott's text give The Little Women Letters a certain authenticity. Donnelly writes with obvious passion for the classic tale and successfully applies a fresh sensibility to the three modern sisters. Nostalgic without being deferential, jocular without being flippant, The Little Women Letters is beautifully crafted.--Turza, Stephani. Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
British-born Donnelly's first novel, payback for all the Americans rewriting Jane Austen, concerns a present-day London family with three sisters descended from and living adventures parallel to the eponymous Alcott heroines.As Lulu Atwater reads a stash of Jo March's (disappointingly dull) letters she's discovered in her mother's attic, the parallels Donnelly makes between the Atwater and March families are not subtle. Instead of Marmee as mother, there's warm and loving Fee, a family therapist originally from Boston and the great-great granddaughter of Jo Bhaer (nee March). Fee's husband David, who publishes travel books, is a genial but frequently absent father. Like Meg March, responsible oldest daughter Emma is engaged to a nice young man, and like Amy March, effervescent youngest daughter Sophie, an aspiring actress, is slightly spoiled but ultimately lovable. Lulu, the brainy middle daughter, is unsettled, unpredictable and outspoken. With no dying fourth sisteralthough Sophie has a bout of food poisoningand no serious financial strain (or even awareness of a civil war being fought, say in Afghanistan), the Atwater family adventures lack the gravitas of the Marches'. Offered a great professional opportunity in North Dakota, Emma's fianc sensitively lets her decide whether the benefit to his career is worth leaving London and her career; despite the Atwaters' half-baked avowals of feminism, she decides it is. When Sophie stands up to snobby Bostonian Aunt Amy and her prejudice against Irish Catholics (as exotic as this novel gets), Aunt Amy likes her spunk and introduces her to an important theatrical producer. Fee and David hit a rocky spot in their marriage but quickly act to rekindle their romance. No Jo March, Lulu finally discovers her passions: for cooking as a career and for a hunky true love. Plenty of sitcom-ready moments occur, like Sophie accidentally brushing her teeth with hair conditioner and Emma buying shoes she can't afford.The Atwaters are amiable in small doses, but Alcott fans will find this chick lit's superficial relationship to the sneakily subversiveLittle Womeninsulting.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.