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Work: A Story of Experience (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 1, 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania, in 1832, the second of four daughters. After a period of serving as an army nurse, she published Hospital Sketches in 1863, followed by Gothic Romances and lurid thrillers. In 1868-9, she published Little Women, which proved so popular that it was followed by two sequels and several other novels. She died in 1888.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014039091X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140390919
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I ran across this book recently and enjoyed reading it. It is more modern than most Alcott books in one respect: the heroine exactly doesn't "get married and live happily ever after."

Like many of the books at the time, the heroine is an orphan. At the age of 21, she leaves her aunt and uncle to make her fortune in the world -- and, she hopes, her happiness, since marrying a farmer she doesn't love "just to get a living" doesn't seem either honest or wise to her.

The book covers almost twenty years in New England -- about ten years before the Civil War through about five years afterwards. The heroine is energetic, intelligent, determined, and capable. And she WORKS! She is always looking for a way to be useful, to pull her own weight, and to help others. The book chronicles her path through a series of jobs and the emotional, physical, and spiritual ups and downs that come with them.

What is most amazing is that the heroine meets a fugitive slave on her first job and treats her as an equal. Unlike "some of the other girls," she doesn't refuse the job simply because the cook is black.

The touching ending scene, in which a diverse group of women pledge to make a better world for themselves (and perhaps to get the right to vote), includes many of the friends she has encountered along the way, "black and white, rich and poor."

However, this beautiful example -- and for the time, this very daring example of inter-racial cooperation -- is marred somewhat by an unaccountable bigotry against the Irish. The anti-Irish comments are all the more jarring because they are completely gratuitous; they have no bearing on plot or character development.

The best that can be said about this failing is that perhaps the author was unconscious of her bigotry, and that at least the Irish are not mentioned often, although every mention is uniformly disparaging.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The title of the book piqued my interest in it and I bought it. I like the idea of this single woman in the 19th century making her way through life by taking up odd jobs that interest her and that could potentially lead to self fulfillment. Romance, of course, is part of the actualization package and runs its course. The historical time period during which this book is set makes the end more interesting especially after the romantic conflict's resolved. Barring the quaint sentimentality of the writing that is hard for me to appreciate as a matter of personal aesthetic, there are some memorable turns of phrase and it's a satisfying read overall.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Even though it was written well over a century ago some of its ideas seem very modern. Also has one of my favorite quotes, "She is too gond of books amf it has turned her brain"
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like Alcott's novels, but this was too much for me. All characters come out on top, nobody is really bad, and certainly nobody stays bad, everybody is constantly striving to become a saint and overcome any fault they might have. I just couldn't relate to the characters, they were just above and beyond normal human people. I actually found it depressing instead of inspiring. Her other books have some humor and often even sarcasm in them, which is sadly missing here till the very last chapter. The humor has always outbalanced the moralistic streak for me, but here I just felt stuck with a thinly veiled moralistic story, which often glided into pure kitsch. Also I felt I had read many of the elements in her other stories and they were just newly arranged and a little bit redecorated. The story could have done with some serious editing before its publication, as some of the chapters are interesting but are overshadowed by kitsch chapters.
I'm aware that a book from this time will be heavy on morals, try to uplift and inspire improvment in the reader, which I usually don't mind, but in this story it just didn't work for me, it felt to forced. "An old-fashioned Girl" is very similar, but is much more engaging and entertaining and inspires laughs along with the tears.

Just a note on this edition, it is extremly badly edited. There are a great many spelling mistakes which often completely distort the sense like "Clown" instead of "Down" and others. But the most annoying one is that the character Philip Fletcher becomes again and again Mr. Pletcher.
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Format: Paperback
I've read another edition of "Work", not the Penguin edition but a large print edition, so I can comment only on Alcott's story.

It's too earnest. Too laboured in getting it's message across. Too preachy and strident. Miss Alcott was a "Boston bred" activist, like Harriet Beecher Stowe (both were New Englanders and had the views and prejudices of New England Yankees) I take that and their Victorian writing styles into account. But "Little Women" reads like a labour of love. This book reads like a labour of -- well, work. As if another person (her mother?) wanted Louisa to write this sort of book. Some of Alcott's humour is there, but it's very little yeast to lighten heavy bread. And this bread is very heavy. The heroine becomes a governess, an actress, a housemaid, a seamstress, a seeker of lost souls. Other characters include several rich and idle men and women, a fugitive slave cook, a number of Good Samaritians, a 'fallen woman', a woman who kills herself because of inherited madness and her siblings, who don't seem mad.

Christie, the heroine, was too "Pollyanna" like in some chapters and too saintly to be real until David started to intrigue her. As she fell in love with him, she gained in dimension. Jo and her sisters in "Little Women" were realistic from the start, yet the messages of sisterly solidarity, working for God's Kingdom on Earth, and moral self-improvement are much the same.

David is intriging. There was a woman in his past that he beats his chest over. He is very like the modern strong and silent type romance hero. A girl has to pry his thoughts out of him, yet Christie is so reticent about getting him to open up that I nearly threw the book across the room. I refrained only because it was a library's copy.
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