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Marmee: A Novel of Little Women by Sarah Miller: A Book Review

Marmee: A Novel of Little Women

Author: Sarah Miller

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: 2022

Pages: 427

Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: From the author of Caroline, a revealing retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved Little Women, from the perspective of Margaret “Marmee” March, about the larger real-world challenges behind the cozy domestic concerns cherished by generations of readers.

     In 1861, war is raging in the South, but in Concord, Massachusetts, Margaret March has her own battles to fight. With her husband serving as an army chaplain, the comfort and security of Margaret’s four daughters— Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—now rest on her shoulders alone. Money is tight and every month, her husband sends less and less of his salary with no explanation. Worst of all, Margaret harbors the secret that these financial hardships are largely her fault, thanks to a disastrous mistake made over a decade ago which wiped out her family’s fortune and snatched away her daughters’ chances for the education they deserve. 

     Yet even with all that weighs upon her, Margaret longs to do more—for the war effort, for the poor, for the cause of abolition, and most of all, for her daughters. Living by her watchwords, “Hope and keep busy,” she fills her days with humdrum charity work to keep her worries at bay. All of that is interrupted when Margaret receives a telegram from the War Department, summoning her to her husband’s bedside in Washington, D.C. While she is away, her daughter Beth falls dangerously ill, forcing Margaret to confront the possibility that the price of her own generosity toward others may be her daughter’s life.

     A stunning portrait of the paragon of virtue known as Marmee, a wife left behind, a mother pushed to the brink, a woman with secrets.

     My Review: Marmee is a retelling of Little Women told from Marmee March’s perspective. Marmee’s husband is fighting in the civil war which leaves her to raise four girls on her own. Marmee struggles continually with poverty. Told in diary format, the novel explores Marmee’s hardships.

     Little Women is one of my favorite novels of all-time. I was excited to read this novel because I wanted to learn more about Marmee. I had always found her to be a strong woman in the story. However, I was disappointed in Mrs. Miller’s portrayal of her. I had always found Marmee to be strict but kind-hearted. Yet, in this retelling, Marmee was very mean-spirited. I found her to be very unlikable. Therefore, I did not see her as the Marmee that I had come to love from Little Women.

     Overall, this novel is about family, hardships, and love. Aside from the main character, all of the characters seem similar to their original counterparts. Marmee was very slow and drawn-out. For fans of Little Women, there is nothing new in this novel that stands out. It is a rehash of events that occurred in this novel. I also didn’t like how this novel was told in a diary format. The writing was stilted and seemed very distant. Marmee was an excellent idea, but unfortunately Mrs. Miller could not pull it off. This is mostly because it is hard to imitate a classic like Little Women and make it stand on its own. After reading Marmee, it made me want to reread the original novel. I did like the historical details in this novel and thought that it was meticulously researched. Thus, fans of Little Women should definitely give this retelling a try. For me, it was mediocre and did little to supplement the original novel. I recommend this for fans of March, Jo & Laurie, and So Many Beginnings!

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars


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