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Work: a Story of Experience

Work: a Story of Experience (Paperback) by Louisa May Alcott

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Moving away from the family setting of her best-known works, Louisa May Alcott explores both her own personal conflicts as a woman, as well as those experienced by her contemporaries in the unemancipated 19th century. Social justice and women's work are the central themes of this novel. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


4 out of 5 stars This book is pro-women and pro-abolition., July 30, 2004

By amazon3131 "amazon3131" (California, USA)

This review is from: Work: A Story of Experience (Paperback)

I ran across this book recently and enjoyed reading it. It is more modern than most Alcott books in one respect: the heroine exactly doesn't "get married and live happily ever after."

Like many of the books at the time, the heroine is an orphan. At the age of 21, she leaves her aunt and uncle to make her fortune in the world -- and, she hopes, her happiness, since marrying a farmer she doesn't love "just to get a living" doesn't seem either honest or wise to her.

The book covers almost twenty years in New England -- about ten years before the Civil War through about five years afterwards. The heroine is energetic, intelligent, determined, and capable. And she WORKS! She is always looking for a way to be useful, to pull her own weight, and to help others. The book chronicles her path through a series of jobs and the emotional, physical, and spiritual ups and downs that come with them.

What is most amazing is that the heroine meets a fugitive slave on her first job and treats her as an equal. Unlike "some of the other girls," she doesn't refuse the job simply because the cook is black.

The touching ending scene, in which a diverse group of women pledge to make a better world for themselves (and perhaps to get the right to vote), includes many of the friends she has encountered along the way, "black and white, rich and poor."

However, this beautiful example -- and for the time, this very daring example of inter-racial cooperation -- is marred somewhat by an unaccountable bigotry against the Irish. The anti-Irish comments are all the more jarring because they are completely gratuitous; they have no bearing on plot or character development.

The best that can be said about this failing is that perhaps the author was unconscious of her bigotry, and that at least the Irish are not mentioned often, although every mention is uniformly disparaging.

2 out of 5 stars Kitsch: too many too good people, February 7, 2008

By A reader

I like Alcott's novels, but this was too much for me. All characters come out on top, nobody is really bad, and certainly nobody stays bad, everybody is constantly striving to become a saint and overcome any fault they might have. I just couldn't relate to the characters, they were just above and beyond normal human people. I actually found it depressing instead of inspiring. Her other books have some humor and often even sarcasm in them, which is sadly missing here till the very last chapter. The humor has always outbalanced the moralistic streak for me, but here I just felt stuck with a thinly veiled moralistic story, which often glided into pure kitsch. Also I felt I had read many of the elements in her other stories and they were just newly arranged and a little bit redecorated. The story could have done with some serious editing before its publication, as some of the chapters are interesting but are overshadowed by kitsch chapters.

I'm aware that a book from this time will be heavy on morals, try to uplift and inspire improvment in the reader, which I usually don't mind, but in this story it just didn't work for me, it felt to forced. "An old-fashioned Girl" is very similar, but is much more engaging and entertaining and inspires laughs along with the tears.

Just a note on this edition, it is extremly badly edited. There are a great many spelling mistakes which often completely distort the sense like "Clown" instead of "Down" and others. But the most annoying one is that the character Philip Fletcher becomes again and again Mr. Pletcher.

5 out of 5 stars An entertaining criticism of conditions for working girls.., November 2, 2000

By Christine A. Lehman "stoogeswoman" (Los Angeles, CA United States) (REAL NAME)    

This review is from: Work: A Story of Experience (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)

If you've read and reread all of Louisa May Alcott's books, and loved her portrayals of brave girls trying to make their way in a harsh world, you must read this "lost" novel, "Work." It is well-written, engaging and humorous, very much in the same style as her other novels for girls, yet with more of a depth of maturity to her characters. If you've read "An Old Fashioned Girl" you will see a lot of "Polly" in the working girls portrayed in this novel. Read it and rejoice in this "new" Alcott novel!

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