Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – A retelling by Laura Wood

As a lover of the classic story of Little Women for as long as I can remember I approached this retelling published by Barrington Stoke with a degree of caution. However in Laura Wood’s capable hands this story of four sisters retains the heart of the original but ensures that it is accessible to those who may find the length and writing style of the classics overwhelming.

Cover artwork by Helen Crawford-White

The four March sisters are very different in character, sweet, kind Meg, tomboyish book loving Jo, shy, thoughtful Beth and precocious, artistic Amy yet they are bound together as a loving family with their wise mother and their father who is at present away at war. They entertain themselves and each other, make friends with their neighbours and enjoy making the most of any opportunities for fun. Their bond may be tested by disagreements, some larger and more upsetting than others, but they come together when things really matter and support each other in adversity with strength and love. What Laura Wood has managed to do in this entertaining version is capture the personalities of the individual girls and remove some elements of the plot that young readers today may struggle with, for example there is no mention of Pilgrim’s Progress in this version. It is the girls themselves who, I think, are key to the love of this book for many, so to keep their distinct characters and manage to make them feel real to the reader despite some parts of the original plot not being included is important.

The main elements of the storyline remain including the growing friendship between the March girls and Laurie, the young man who lives with his grandfather next door. Inevitably in order to condense the story to novella length there are some episodes that of necessity are omitted however this would not affect the enjoyment for a reader new to the book. It is worth mentioning that modern editions, and film versions, tend to combine Little Women and Good Wives in one volume. In order to keep this version to a manageable length Laura Wood has retold only the first part, and as some of the events many associate with this classic novel take place in the Good Wives section this may be unexpected for those familiar with the plot. However, this does mean this Barrington Stoke retelling is even more suitable for a slightly younger audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting my old friends again and think Laura Wood’s version would be a valuable addition to school libraries for readers of about 10 or 11 upwards. Published on 6th April by Barrington Stoke this book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 9. I should like to thank the publishers for my review copy.

Barrington Stoke have published retellings of several of the classics and I have in the past reviewed Laura Wood’s version of Pride and Prejudice and Tanya Landman’s retellings of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights all of which I would also recommend.

Little Women as both a book and a film has always held a special place in my heart and I have in the past written about its appeal and if you are interested you can read about that here.

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4 Responses to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – A retelling by Laura Wood

  1. Like you, I am always rather hesitant about re-tellings of favourite classics but I can see the need to make them accessible. It sounds as if this version has been written particularly well, thanks for the excellent review 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      You’re quite right, Veronica. There is a need which this book meets well although I do think it’s a shame that some may miss out on the full story thinking that a retelling is the same. This is an excellent example of an abridged version but is not the ‘real thing’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I always hope that these books will be gateways to the real thing when readers are ready 😊 The best I’ve read is Katherine Woodfine’s version of Pride & Prejudice which for me captured the wit and essence of the original perfectly.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reading Matters – children’s book news | Library Lady

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