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An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

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In Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl, countrified Polly Milton comes to visit the rich and elegant Shaw family in the city. Fanny, Tom, and Maud Shaw are all indulged, selfish children oblivious to a world beyond fashion and frippery. Mrs. Shaw is equally vain, but Mr. Shaw, the hard-working provider of their excesses, is sensible and considerate. He and his mother, who resides with them, are the only members of the family who seem to recognize the value of Polly's unaffected, trustworthy goodness.

The first half of the book chronicles the visit, and Polly's increasing effect for good upon each member of the family. The second half leaps ahead six years to find the older children now in their twenties. Polly is teaching music, helping to ensure her brother a university education; Fanny and Tom are yet in pursuit of social importance and non-stop amusement. It's "breakers ahead," however, and Polly is not the only one to find herself struggling with the rigors of real life. Reverses, confusion, and a more-than-one love triangle work themselves through to the last chapter.

An Old-Fashioned Girl has many of the qualities that make Alcott's novels so endearing. There are mouth-watering descriptions of 19th century life, congenial reminiscences, lovable heroines, and despicable debutantes. There is Alcott's usual zeal for reform—this time not only in the realms of fashion, food, and entertainment, but a real sympathy for the young working-women of the late 1800s.

There is also Alcott's penchant for platitudes and sermonizing; and I did find myself wondering a bit at the final pairings, as well as Maud's lack of one. But overall this is a fine romp into a world of goodness, jollity, and documented delights. It is fast-paced, compelling fun—a good read around the fire.

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott is featured in Vol 7 No 1 of The Storybook Home Journal.

Tags: Vol. 7 No. 1, 2010, Book reviews

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