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Rose in Bloom Paperback – January 1, 2007
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Even after decades of life, and a half dozen reads or so, this book still makes me tear up in places, and I am not ashamed to admit that in the least. The book recalls a time and culture that were cleaner and simpler in many ways than what we have now, and turning the pages is like going back in time--I have so many happy memories tied up with this book, and others I enjoyed as a young girl.
You won't find all the tools modern authors use to hold attention here--violence, sex, bad language or unnatural, ridiculous plots and sub-plots. What you will find is simple, clear language, a smooth presentation of the values and morals of the authoress' times, and very simple, human characters that worry about the only things that are really important in life, when you come right down to it.
Louisa May Alcott's books should be the first books you introduce your child to--because the world (and the people in it) still need the values she writes about so naturally, and you'd be hard pressed to find those values in any of the "modern" children's books on the market. And for adults--why not take a trip back into your childhood and enjoy a simple, well written book again?
My only criticism is the treatment of Fun See. However, for the time period it was VERY progressive for Alcott to marry him to a well-to-do American girl, she showed great ignorance in her writing of the character, which, to be fair, was the common treatment of anyone Asian.
Yes, the book is strongly moralistic and it's supposed to be. Remember, it's written for children and teens and it's supposed to be instructional. What lifts it from being some kind of religious tract is the lovely story of Rose and her family.
Unfortunately, I suspect that this book, like so many others, will gradually disappear. Paragraphs aren't supposed to be more than a couple of sentences. Morality is out; dystopia is in; and, if the pace isn't breathtaking, the book's a dud. Like other parents, I wanted to share books I loved with my children. I had success with some books, but, unfortunately Louisa May Alcott was a step too far.
In the meantime, though, thanks to Chios Classics and other publishers who are re-printing these classics and making them available on Kindle. Us oldsters remember them fondly.
As for the content itself, I loved this book as a child, but hadn't read it in decades. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story still holds up: in fact, I had trouble putting it down, and looked forward to getting back to it each evening. There is one chapter (about "sensational" fiction) that is really just too preachy (especially given Alcott's own history as a writer of thrillers), but most of the little lessons woven throughout the story are softened enough with humor and humanity that they go down pretty easily, in my opinion. Although the book presents an idealized world that never really existed, the characters are so distinctive and believable that you can't help but get caught up in their joys and troubles. Alcott's belief in altruism for its own sake does lend a heartfelt glow to the pages, if you have any aspirations toward altruism. And, grown-up as I am, reading the book did make me want to romp about outside the way the children do, and take a few of the lessons for my own use (though I just can't get behind the one about cold baths).
Although Alcott can seem a bit too earnest and do-gooding for modern children, it's useful to remember that some of what the book advocates was considered radical in its day, such as the idea that the heroine, Rose, should understand her own finances, study human anatomy, and prepare herself to make her own decisions about her life and status as an heiress. The book also champions the work of housewives in a way that can be unusual even today.
I was a bit worried about how I would feel when Rose meets up with two minor Chinese characters, but the scene was actually less racist than I had remembered. Though a few comments about things like "yellow" skin would not be acceptable today, and one of the characters is perhaps treated a bit too comically, for the time, Alcott held a remarkably modern view of race relations. She shows in a later book that she has no problem with a Chinese person marrying a white person, which is far beyond what her contemporary Anthony Trollope could conceive, though his writing is more modern than hers in most other respects.
Alcott's writing style is pretty conversational, and I believe it's simple and straightforward enough that most older children will have little trouble understanding the language, though the book was published nearly 140 years ago.