Author – Louisa May Alcott
Pages – 302
Genre – Classic, Fiction
My Rating – 4/5
If you like reading books by L.M.Montgomery, Eva Ibbotson or others by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women being her most popular novel), then you are sure to enjoy this one! This book touched my heart as so often these classics do.
I had read a little bit of The Mill on The Floss by George Eliot and I had found the beginning particularly onerous to get through. It was nothing but hard effort that kept me turning the pages. This experience made me feel gloomy about classics and I wondered how many of my much adored classics are such a hard read and why I adore them so much. Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott answered all my questions and prayers for a wonderful book. I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t put it down; I understood Rose as if she was my best mate, admired Phebe, loved Mac, was scared for wayward Charlie and sincerely respected Uncle Alec. I realized, once again, how delightful these classics are and why I read them. I realized how they make me constantly want to be a better person. Rose drew me in into her own world, which I felt like I understood better than I did my own.
Rose is a perfectly kind, thoughtful and forward-thinking young woman who is trying to make her way in the world in her own terms and learns several important things about her family and the world. She eventually becomes a force of good in the family and keeps them together. She had been raised in an upright and loving manner by her Uncle Alec. I think it’s really important to have a guardian, or a person whose moral compass you can respect and trust. Uncle Alec was a wise old man, letting Rose pick her own way and at the same time, advising her in the far-sighted and soothing manner only an elder can.
“I don’t wish to get used to being whisked about a hot room by men who have taken too much wine, to turn day into night, wasting time that might be better spent, and grow into a fashionable fast girl who can’t get along without excitement. I don’t deny that much of it is pleasant, but don’t try to make me too fond of gaiety. Help me to resist what I know is hurtful, and please don’t laugh me out of the good habits Uncle has tried so hard to give me.”
I respected Rose for her reaction to the months spent in enjoyment and completely agree with her. My heart bled for wayward Charlie and at the same time for Rose, Charlie was the most attractive of them all, also the most energetic and showy. I would have begun to fall in love with Charlie, just as Rose did. And yet, it is clear, in the line above, Charlie is not good for her. He doesn’t share the same principles as her and laughs at her solemnly made decisions. He is spoilt, arrogant and weak. Mac, on the other hand, is made of firmer substance. He may be an ugly duckling, and may also be absent-minded; tending to engross himself completely on bookish matters (but that only adds to his character surely, not diminish it). He is patient, reliable, has a mind of his own and speaks out against what he knows is wrong. He completely won me over when he admonished Charlie’s friends for tempting Charlie and his own cousins, convincing them to be better to their beloved.
‘It is very unreasonable in us to ask women to be saints and then expect them to feel honored when we offer them our damaged hearts or, at best, one not half as good as theirs. If they weren’t blinded by love, they’d see what a mean advantage we take of them and not make such a hard bargain.’
There is something about a man who speaks and thinks clearly, has a heart full of good nature, that is precious and charming. Mac is hands down, the best character in the book. He is not presumptuous or arrogant like Charlie is, humble and staid-fast, clever and well behaved, intelligent and scrupulous — I respect Mac and I adore him.
One of my other favourite characters was definitely Jamie. Everytime he was mentioned, it made me laugh out loud. The little thing and his antiques were a pure delight. I love it when children or adults are learning and figuring things out. And while Rose was trying to unravel these things in her complicated life, even little Jamie was learning his own lessons and trying to be a worthy little being.
“Jamie suffered the most during that day, so divided was he between the desire to behave well and the frantic impulse to shout at the top of his voice, turn somersaults, and race all over the house. Occasional bolts into the barn, where he let off steam by roaring and dancing jigs, to the great dismay of the fat old horses and two sedate cows, helped him to get through that trying period.”
For me, the central theme in this book was how Rose is constantly trying to stay true to herself. In-spite of the contrary impulses in the moment, she does not let them get the better of her conscience. She does what she thinks is right in a far-sighted manner and is very honest about it. She has a clear idea of what is right and wrong, and while that is not always a good thing because it alienates those with different principles but it helps to think clearly and make decisions for yourself. It is through her conversations with Uncle Alec that we get to see her struggles, her weaknesses and flaws as she admits them and tries to conquer them. We start to love her as she struggles to understand what it means to love, to be loved and to be worthy of it (as so many of us have done ourselves).
It is these struggles that made me enter her shoes and wonder what course of action I would have taken and how they differ from hers. Am I as strong as her? Strength in this book was about always being true to yourself and others. It was also about resisting temptations and being patient. This is a very confusing world and I like to understand and learn from those who steer their ship so well. Rose’s challenges, disappointments and revelations made Rose a very human character. Her idea of love answered an unexplained question in my heart and I am leaving it here, so it may answer such a question in yours.
‘I don’t know how others feel, but, to me, love isn’t all. I must look up, not down, trust and honor with my whole heart, and find strength and integrity to lean on.’
My only complaints with this book were: why did Phebe sacrifice her musical career to settle down? This was set in 1800’s so perhaps that is more understandable but after so many rallying cries of feminism and the right of women to work in this book, why does this happen? Secondly, the book was about teaching the readers a set of right’s and wrong’s and that did make it come across a bit preachy here and there. I enjoyed it nevertheless. Finally, while Mac was an excellent character; the continuous bits of poetry from different poets, and mentions of Thoreau and Emerson did sort of pique me.
Overall, a very enjoyable read. Though there were things I disliked about it, I did adore it and it changed me in some way, made me want to be a better and stronger person. This book quite reminded me of the Anne of Green Gables and had the same sort of heroine here in Rose. It’s interesting to see how the questions Louisa May Alcott addresses in 1876 are still just as relevant now. Absolutely enjoyable read, a vintage Alcott!
Here are two of the other novels I hope to read soon by her: