Louisa May Alcott, 1876
In this sequel to Eight Cousins, Rose has just come back from a two-year tour through Europe with Uncle Alec and Phebe. Eight Cousins left off when she was 14, she left for Europe when she was 18, and now she is 20. She has grown wiser and even more beautiful, and will inherit her parent’s fortune in a year. The chemistry between the young people has changed too, which becomes evident to them, “No sooner were they shut up in a carriage, however, than a new and curious constraint seemed to fall upon the young people, for they realized, all at once, that their former playmates were men and women now.” (pg. 3) There are many who seek her hand, especially when she tries “coming out in society” for a few months, some who are desperate, some who are foolish, and some who genuinely feel affection for her. But it becomes evident (without even looking at the cover) that the two greatest contenders are Mac, the bookworm, and Charlie, the Prince.
It feels like the writing style changed a bit from the first book. As if we, the reader, are growing with Rose, the writing changes focus and contains more human emotion and intrigue.
Rose continues to grow as a person and to learn from her Uncle Alec. Phebe goes out into the world to make her own way and find success, and Mac also enters the wider world for an unexpected metier outside of medicine. We see another side of Archie and struggle with Charlie to change his ways and master his faults.
Alcott, a great observer of human kind, continues to impart her views and life lessons in this story. Rose chooses how she wants to live and learns about true friends and giving without expecting gratitude. “There was no sweet old face upon the pillow now, yet the tears that wet the blooming cheeks were not for her who had gone, but for her who was left, because they saw something which spoke eloquently of the love which out lives death and makes the humblest thing beautiful and sacred.” (pg. 33)
I didn’t like it that Charlie died. Not one bit. He had a good heart, and “he had the courage which can face a great danger bravely, though not the strength to fight a bosom sin and conquer it.” (pg. 235-236) I did like Mac, though, quite a bit. I was sure that Rose would marry Mac since she read to him while his eyes recovered, and it was a great perplexity to me when Rose started to feel something for Charlie, but I came to accept it. Then it ended abruptly.
Other things I didn’t like: that Phebe gave up her career to marry Archie, a great loss to both Phebe and the world. She could have continued her singing while married to Archie. It’s true that she wanted to give it up to show her love, but I think she could have done that in another way. Also the part where Mac comes down from the mountains and Alcott delivers a mini sermon on Romanticism and the teachings of Thoreau. I didn’t feel that it was fitting.
I must say I heartily agree with Elise over at her Ribbons of Light blog, “If you appreciate chivalry, biblical values and principles, romance, and true love that outlasts youthful passion, then read this book! Rose in Bloom is a genuine classic, and sits pretty much even with Little Women in my list of favourite Alcott book.”
I’m glad that there are more Alcott books for me to read. Now, onto Little Women!