A Louisa May Alcott Christmas


“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, “We haven’t got Father, and shall not have him for a long time.” She didn’t say “perhaps never,” but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.

Who can forget these first few lines from the opening chapter of the much-loved classic, Little Women?

Louisa May Alcott really has a knack for writing Christmas stories, and I discovered a couple of them this week (erm, while getting my hair done at the salon) — The Quiet Little Woman, and The Abbot’s Ghost (books 204-205 of 2009) .

quietlittleBoth books are dubbed as “A Christmas Story” but they are quite different in many ways.

The Quiet Little Woman is actually bundled with two more stories, Tilly’s Christmas and Rosa’s Tale, all in the style of Little Women — sweet, heartwarming, and virtuous.

These three stories were a gift to the Lukens sisters: Carrie, Maggie, Nellie, Emma, and Helen, who were inspired by Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy’s Pickwick Portfolio, the family paper in Little Women.

The Lukens girls were actually able to print their own home-produced magazine, Little Things, and build its circulation. Alcott was quite supportive of their endeavor, and corresponded with them frequently. Alcott wrote stories for Little Things, even when she could have sold them to bigger publications for several hundred dollars apiece.

The Quiet Little Woman is a story about an orphan girl named Patty. Her Christmas wish is to have a family that loves her, and with her hard work and gentle spirit, her wish is about to come true.

In Tilly’s Christmas, a little girl saves a bird from freezing to death, and is magically rewarded with a sumptuous Christmas for her poor family.

Rosa’s Tale plays on the legend that animals are gifted with speech for one hour after midnight on Christmas eve, and an old horse reveals her interesting life story.

abbotsMeanwhile, The Abbot’s Ghost is in Alcott’s other style of writing: a sensational thriller. I first discovered this side of Alcott in A Long Fatal Love Chase, which I read last year and enjoyed immensely.

In Abbot’s Ghost, Maurice Treherne is crippled after he saves his cousin Jasper’s life in an unfortunate yachting incident. When Jasper’s father dies, Maurice was left out of the will, even though he saved the heir’s life, because he is falsely accused of gambling and fraud. Maurice must clear his name, as he stands to lose the hand of his fair Octavia.

Reading the two books subsequently, I still find it hard to believe they were written by the same person, echoing how I felt when I read A Long Fatal Love Chase for the first time.

While The Quiet Little Woman oozes domestic charm, The Abbot’s Ghost is, curiously, the sort of thing Jo March would’ve written: a fiery melodrama, playing on dark secrets, intrigue, debauchery, passion, loyalty, and of course, undying love.

Whether you like her sweet or sensational, Louisa May Alcott knows how to spin a good Christmas yarn, and guarantees excellent Christmas reading!


My copies:  The Quiet Little Woman and The Abbot’s Ghost, both hardcover with dust jacket

My rating: both 4/5 stars

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