Monday, 19 August 2013

Book of the Week; Louisa May Alcott's Little Women Illustrated by Rene Cloke


Why is it that so many people love this book while others loathe it? Some complain of its saccharine sweetness and outdated attitudes while others declare it to be magical and timeless. I adored it when I was a little girl, but I’m nervous about reading it again in case I fall out of love. Either way, this is a beautiful edition lovingly illustrated by Rene Cloke. 

"Look there! Look there!"

"May I come in, please, or shall I be a bother?"

Laurie and Jo rowed one boat.

I took 'The Vicar of Wakefield' out of my pocket --

"Keep near the shore, it isn't safe in the middle."

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott;  Eight full-page colour plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations by Rene Cloke. Large hardback book complete with the scarce dust jacket published by P. R. Gawthorn Ltd in 1949.

This copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is now sold, thank you for your interest

Have you read Little Women? If you have did you love it or did you hate it? 

52 comments:

  1. ~ Hello, lovely Barbara.
    I haven't read the book, Little Women, but I do remember watching the series on TV, when small. my big sister and I used to rein act the parts..It brings back to me lovely memories of our Sunday afternoons in simpler days......The pictures and writings looks so special....Thanks for sharing with us all! ~ and also for lovely words on my black bird post! hugs and summer kisses ***** Maria x

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    1. How lovely to think of you and your sister acting out the parts – happy memories indeed! It is a beautifully illustrated edition, and I feel lucky to have it if only for a little while. Summer is back again today, but it feels as though autumn is just around the corner. So I’m sending back summer kisses while I still can xxxx

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  2. Oh this is so good...this is right up my area of new-found knowledge, and here's why:

    I just finished a 6 week poetry writing course with a brilliant British author and teacher. One of the things she showed us to avoid was being

    "TWEE" (I understand that is a British English term?) or otherwise, too PRECIOUS. As you describe how many have coined this story as too "saccarine sweet", I realized how many stories I have loved as well that may fall into this category! I also learned to try to avoid too much sentimentality in my poetry....BUT.......

    In regards to this classic and many others like it, you are right in saying that we must consider THE TIME in which it was written. Values were different back then, focused more on things that today's audiences are a bit distanced from. But nonetheless, if there is something there that rings TRUE and imaginative for us now, then it is ours for the keeping.

    I wonder if anyone has ever considered writing an updated version of the main character who has to struggle to become what she wants to be, in the middle of family issues such as the death of a sister, a father's absence and poverty? The themes of life are recycled to fit our times.

    READ IT BARBARA! Much love, Anita

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    1. Hello Anita, Twee is indeed a British term. Years ago, it was used to describe something dainty or quaint, but it’s been rather hijacked in recent years (as lots of words are). If it’s used now it seems to signify something that is far too sentimental or sweet beyond sweet! Saccharine probably sums it up perfectly.

      I have such fond memories of reading Little Women so it does make me hesitate – but maybe I should give it a go. It would be interesting to see what I think of it now. An updated version is such a brilliant idea – all we need is someone to write it – any volunteers???

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Anita, I always love to hear from you. xx

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  3. I loved LIttle Women when I read it, but my daughter had to read it when she was 10 or 11 and hated it. She might have preferred this beautifully illustrated version.

    I haven't ever reread Little Women and don't think I will. I reread a childhood favorite once and was very disappointed in it and don't want that experience again.

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    1. Hi Alex, I was forced to read The yearling at about the same age. I hated it, so I understand how your daughter felt. The hardest part was reading out loud to the rest of the class. Honestly, it was enough to put a child off reading for life! I was lucky because I could go home and immerse myself in books by Enid Blyton, but a lot of the kids didn't have that chance. I would think some of the less able readers probably gave up there and then!
      I will let you know what I think of Little Women if I do read it again. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.

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  4. I have always loved this book and the movies too! Great illustrations in this one. Have a great week!

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    1. Hi Diane, I missed out on the movie but would like to see it. The illustrations in this version just leap out of the page. They are so bright and colourful. Thanks for your good wishes, Barbara.

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  5. I've never read this book so I don't know about it's sweetness, but I can take that as it's lovely to escape into another world! I must try and read it soon. The illustrations are fabulous. x

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    1. Hello Suzy, it is very sweet, but it also leaves a lovely warm feeling - one that I can still remember. The illustrations are very special. Thanks for your visit. xx

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  6. Oh Barbara! I loved Little Women when I was a girl ("Mujercitas" in Spanish). I have great and sweet memories of it so I have been buying some old versions -my collector or hoarder gene again...haha- that I will share in my blog in the future. I haven't reread it as an adult but I think it was a great story and I especially like the different character of each of the sisters. It was an important contribution saying that women could choose what they wanted in life and I remember enjoying Jo's character and finding her so determined pursuing her goals.
    I love this version illustrated by Rene Cloke and have never found it here.
    Besos!

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    1. Hello Silvina, ‘Mujercitas’ sounds very romantic, such a nice word! This lovely book has been with me for a long time, but as you may remember from a previous blog post, I decided it was time to sell my Rene Cloke collection. I was very tempted to keep some of the nicer ones (like this) but I really need to make room for other things. We ‘downsized’ a few years ago and just don’t have the space any more. I’m already excited at the prospect of seeing some of your editions in a future post. Maybe you will find a copy of the Rene Cloke version now that you have seen a picture of it – that often happens to me. Barbara

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  7. I entirely love it! Who cares if things are sweet sometimes! That is what I look forward to in life! ;-)
    -Jamie
    ChatterBlossom

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    1. Well said Jamie - bring on the sweetness! :O)

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  8. I love it Barbara - and this is such a gorgeous copy. Thanks for including so many of the illustrations. I never had this particular version of the book myself but I do remember seeing it as a child and thinking it was very special. I'm a fan!

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    1. Hello Sharon, I wish I could remember this version from my childhood, but book shopping for me consisted of looking for Enid Blyton books and nothing else.

      My Godmother sent me a copy of Little Women published by Dent in the Children’s illustrated classics series with illustrations by S. Van Abbe it was pretty but not nearly as nice as the Rene Cloke version. I do wish I still had it though because it would have an inscription from my Godmother.

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  9. Hi Barbara - I enjoy reading Little Women, and treasure my copy.
    I assure you, you wouldn't fall out of love if you were to read it again. It is timeless.

    I adore Rene Cloke's illustrations - this is probably due to my love of Enid Blyton's books.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post.

    Have a lovely week : )

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    1. Hello Yvone, it’s funny you should say that! When I first started collecting Rene Cloke, I had no idea why the illustrations appealed to me. It was only later when I put two and two together and connected her with Enid Blyton. One of my very favourite illustrators is Eileen Soper. She was the original illustrator of the Famous Five books. It's amazing how much influence books from our childhood have over the rest of our lives. Thanks for your comment. Barbara x

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  10. Beautiful illustrations and cover. This is a sweet book that I've enjoyed over the years.

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    1. Hello Donna, I thought this one would appeal to you. It is a lovely story, and I've made up my mind to read it again.

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  11. I love this book , every woman could relate with this book :)

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    1. Hello Aunt Mary, you are absolutely right! Thanks for calling in.

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  12. This is one of my all time favourite books and I still have the copy given to me as a gift over 50 years ago. I have reread it many times as I have used it in my ESL tutoring sessions. (the students love it too) I never tire of it and love it just as much everytime I read it. The family values ring as true now as they did then. Like the novels of Jane Austen and The Bronte sisters, Little Women is a timeless classic. This copy looks delightful. (I truly believe the world needs more sweetness right now and children grave it)

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    1. Hello Darlene, it’s interesting to hear your students still enjoy it. I wrongly assumed they would want something more sophisticated. Its heart warming to think that today’s youngsters still want to read about family values and less materialistic times. OK, I’ve made up my mind a re-reading of Little Women is next on my list.

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  13. I have reblogged your post http://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/little-women/

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    1. That is so lovely of you, thank you Darlene. I will be over to read it as soon as I've left this reply.

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  14. One of my all time favorite books. I have read Little Women, Little Men and a few other of Louis May Alcott's books and loved every one of them. It reminds me of a simpler time, when the world seemed more black and white and easy to define.

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    1. Hello Teressa, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I’ve just been over to visit your blog and am your newest follower with bloglovin’
      I feel rather ashamed to admit the only Louis May Alcott I’ve read is Little Women, maybe once I’ve re-read it I should go on to some others.
      I agree with you about life being simpler back then, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Barbara

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  15. This edition illustrated by Rene Cloke,Is without doubt the "Top of the heap?" and I can't imagine where the world would be without it's influence, and don't forget her poetry? as already commented by Darlene " A timeless Classic". Soooooooooo true.

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    1. Hello Agman, I’m delighted you decided to visit with me today! It just reminded me that I need to come and see what you’ve been up to over the last week or two. I do so enjoy reading your blog. Little Women is indeed a classic, and I’m ashamed I had doubts about reading it again!

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  16. I know exactly what you mean. I loved Little Women and even went as far as reading Little Men when I was a teenager(though I only have a vague recollection of what it was about!). I would feel nervous at the prospect of reading it again. How would I feel about Jo now? And what of Laurie or Marmee! Would the book work its magic on a grown-up (I say that with a fairly straight face) and 21st Century mind? It would be such a shame if it didn't!

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    1. Oh Lord, I’d just made up my mind to read it now the doubts are back. My replies to previous comments show the state of my wavering resolve, but I am going to give it a go! Thanks for your input Jill. :O)

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  17. ...i doth love ~ love ~ love it! ~ in all it's guises and forms! ~ it gives endless hours of dreamings! ~ blessed be! ~ dear gentle heart!...(O:

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    1. Dear Earthenmagic, I think I can safely say you like it, and I like you for taking the time to say so, thank you! ;O)

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  18. Love it! I've read a few others by Alcott as well.

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    1. Thanks Leanne, I’m glad you like it. Barbara.

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  19. I have this on my keepers shelve and need to read it again at some point. I think you should re read it but I know what you mean, I hate when you read something again that you previously loved but as we grow older it doesn't capture us quite the same.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

    P.s I don't think mine has any images in it

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    1. Hello Lainy, I am a little worried, but I’m going to give it a go. Michelle over at Vintage Cobweb re-read Alice in Wonderland and really hated it, and yet I re-read it and loved it – so there is just no telling!
      There were lots of versions published, some with illustrations and some without.

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  20. I read it many, many years ago and loved it. I also loved many of the movie versions. I have never reread it as an adult- but maybe I should. I hope you enjoy it as much or more than you did years ago. This looks like a beautiful version to read!

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    1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie, or if I have I’ve forgotten it. I don’t think I will risk reading this one, in case it gets damaged. I will have to buy myself a paperback copy; I'm sure there are hundreds around. Thanks for calling in.

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  21. I haven't read it, but your post certainly made me interested in reading this book. The illustrations are gorgeous and it seems like a nice story :)

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  22. Hello Hilde, I remember enjoying it very much when I read it many years ago, and I agree about the illustrations. Barbara.

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  23. I love the pictures but you're right I preferred Sci-fi and fantasy at that age.

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    1. Hello Eve, I didn’t get into Sci-fi until I was in my 20s, but once I did I realised just what I’d been missing!

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  24. I did enjoy 'Little Women' when I was a child, but it was more due to my friends liking the story and my teaching raving about it that I liked it. (Aigh, quite ashamed, but I did love how Jo sacrificed herself for the family.) Rene Cloke's illustrations flow right into that period's grace.

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    1. Hello Claudine, your comment made me smile! If we all read and liked the same things, life would be far less interesting. Thanks so much for calling in. Barbara
      PS I really enjoyed your post about The Django.

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  25. One of my favorite books!! There were 4 girls in my family and Louisa May Alcott could have been writing about my own sisters. Different time and place, but still... timeless characters. These illustrations are wonderful.

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    1. Hello Gayle, it must be lovely to have lots of sisters, although I’m sure it must also mean lots more arguments! I have one sister and one brother so can sort of identify with the book but not as much as you can.

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  26. I read this when I was about 10, it was with my Christmas presents, which in those days were quite sparse. One of my Godmother's bought it, and it was a little blue book!

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  27. Lovely memories thank you for sharing them.

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  28. This post had me looking through my old Little Women book! My grandmother just wrote To: Stephanie From Gram E. in the front (which was nice to see- as my grandma has been gone for almost 15 years). My version does not have a dust jacket, but it is a lovely version published in the USA in 1926 and illustrated by Clara Burd. The color illustrations are beautiful. Thanks for sending me checking and strolling down memory lane. :)

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    1. Hi Stephanie, It’s so lovely to have a book with a personal message inside. It makes it just that bit more special. I will have to see if I can find that version as I don’t know it at all. I’m interested to see the Clara Burd illustrations.

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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