An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott 20 Books of Summer

An Old-Fashioned Girl cover

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott was first published in 1870, but six chapters had been published in a magazine the previous year.

It’s the story of Polly who is the teenage daughter of a rural church minister and his wise and sensible wife, money in that family isn’t plentiful, so when Polly travels to Boston to visit her friend Fanny she finds herself in a situation she hasn’t been in before. Fanny’s family is a wealthy one, living in a grand house with servants. Material things are obviously very important to them, but when compared with Polly’s family and upbringing Polly can see that the money and easy life hasn’t made Fanny’s family happy. In particular Fanny’s mother is immature and lacking in any common-sense, her children are argumentative and spoiled spendthrifts. Fanny’s father sees Polly’s kindness and warmth as being a good influence on his family, but really he’s just a provider of money as far as they’re concerned. Fanny’s mother reminded me in some ways of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, she shrieks and takes to her bed when she gets bad news and evidently only married her husband for his money.

This book covers several years, taking Polly and Fanny into their early 20s. Polly is determined to be independent, she’s working as a music teacher to help her brother get through college financially. Teaching small children turns out to be much more difficult than she thought it would be. There’s romance of course and it’s quite obvious how things will end up for Polly. She’s determined to marry someone that she loves rather than ‘an establishment’. I thought of Lizzie Bennet and Pemberley!

This was an enjoyable read, I know that if I had read this book when I was a youngster I would really have identified with Polly, and not being a wild consumerist or interested in designer labels, make-up and nail bars I still do identify with her really. I found this book to be a bit too preachy and just a wee bit too sentimental, but that was the fashion of the time. I don’t think there’s a sequel to it, which is a shame, I would have liked to read more about Polly as she aged.

Thanks for sending me this one Jennifer.

I read this one for 20 Books of Summer.

8 thoughts on “An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott 20 Books of Summer

  1. All of Louisa May Alcott was preachy and sentimental, but I loved all of her books when I was a child and still do as an older adult. This was one of my favorites.

    • Teri,
      I thought at first that it was very American – the sentimentality and preachiness – but then remembered that the Scottish author O.Douglas also went in for a lot of preachy sentimentality and she was writing long after Alcott was. I enjoyed Eight Cousins fairly recently too. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

  2. I believe she was heavily influenced by Dickens whom she loved, but somehow her sentimentality is even more extreme than his – maybe because her humour doesn’t work quite so well? I loved her as a child but find her too saccharin now, and I really don’t like preachiness…

    • FictionFan,
      That would explain her sentimentality then. Anthony Trollope nicknamed Dickens Mr Sentimentality. I can’t read Dickens at all, but love Trollope.

  3. How interesting that you thought of Pride & Prejudice, Katrina. That hadn’t occurred to me. Also, I didn’t know she was influenced by Dickens as Fiction Fan mentions and I don’t associate her with humour! I wrote about this book myself in the early days of my blog, you may like to look again. I’ve just re-read my own thoughts and coupled with yours, I want to start reading more Alcott again!

    • Sandra,
      Thanks for the link. I agree – I got to this one too late and would probably have loved it more as a youngster. I’d like to read more of her books too. I enjoyed reading Eight Cousins – if I’m recalling correctly.

  4. I am not a fan of preachiness or sentimentality either and yet, I sent you this book! I agree with Teri’s comment. All of LMA’s books are a bit preachy and sentimental. However, they are so much a part of my reading DNA that I don’t really notice anymore. I am glad you enjoyed it and I wish there was a sequel too.

    • Jennifer,
      I suspect that preachiness in children’s books was just normal in those days. I did think that it must be very easy to cope with the loss of your money if there’s a handy house nearby that you own and can grow a lot of your own food in the garden. There was no chance of them being homeless and I preferred the sound of the granny’s old home anyway. Maybe you should try your hand at writing a sequel.
      Thanks again for this book.

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