Sunday, November 15, 2015

Eight Cousins (1874)

Eight Cousins. Louisa May Alcott. 1874. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

Rose sat all alone in the big best parlor, with her little handkerchief laid ready to catch the first tear, for she was thinking of her troubles, and a shower was expected.

If only I'd first met Louisa May Alcott through Eight Cousins instead of Little Women! It might not have taken me decades to read a second book by Louisa May Alcott. My first book by Louisa May Alcott was, of course, Little Women. It's not that I found it awful--just awfully sad. Eight Cousins, on the other hand, was a delight from cover to cover.

The heroine, Rose Campbell, is an orphan. She has plenty of aunts--or perhaps I should say great aunts--around in addition to seven boy cousins. Her official guardian is Uncle (Doctor) Alec. His aunts aren't pleased with the arrangement, thinking that one of them--any of them really--could do a "better" job of raising George and Rose's daughter. He offers a compromise of sorts. Let him alone and let him be sole guardian with the final say on everything concerning Rose for a full year, and then at the end of the year have a conference to determine if he did a good enough job to remain her guardian for keeps. The book chronicles Rose's first year.

Readers will see Rose adapt to her new life; make friends with Phebe, the maid servant; make friends with all seven of her cousins; come to accept all her fussy and fidgety aunts; have plenty of adventures in all four seasons of the year; grow academically under the teaching of her uncle; learn practical skills from her aunts--sewing, cooking, cleaning, etc.

Rose is a good, sweet, intelligent young girl. And she was a joy to spend time with. She does act "as a magnet" for her cousins, they're drawn to her and want to spend time with her; her aunts and uncle hope she'll use her magnetism for good--to improve the morals of her cousins. Is the book preachy? Yes and no. I mean I don't think it is especially preachy when compared to children's books written in the Victorian period. Compared to children's books written today perhaps, it is somewhat preachy. I did notice that when the book turned preachy most often it was through dialogue; let's just say that Rose has opinionated aunts! Though not always. Here's a good example:
Fathers and mothers are too absorbed in business and housekeeping to study their children, and cherish that sweet and natural confidence which is a child's surest safeguard, and a parent's subtlest power. So the young hearts hide trouble or temptation till the harm is done, and mutual regret comes too late. Happy the boys and girls who tell all things freely to father or mother, sure of pity, help, and pardon; and thrice happy the parents who, out of their own experience, and by their own virtues, can teach and uplift the souls for which they are responsible.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Ms. Yingling 4:58 PM  

I got a copy of this about 1974, and it's always been my favorite. The sequel is a bit sadder. The cover of my edition shows a much frailer child. I read a bit too much Alcott and Montgomery when I was in middle school, yet I can't get readers interested in either.

Sherry 10:02 PM  

My favorites are Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. Yes, they're preachy by today's standards, and the part about the "Chinaman" who comes to visit is politically incorrect and insensitive, so much so that I had to edit on the fly when I was reading to my girls. Still, there's charm to these two that isn't in Little Women or even Little Men. All those boys running about and "cutting capers!"

Barbara H. 7:59 AM  

It has been a long time since I have read the rest of her books - I need to revisit them some time!

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