16
May
11

CR3 #39: Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Eight Cousins is a fairly typical Alcott tale. It touches on her themes of teaching good behavior by example, sacrificing for others, and not over-taxing children’s minds while neglecting their bodies and spirits.

Rose is a twelve year old whose invalid father recently passed away. Since her mother died when she was very young, the young girl is sent to live with her elderly aunts under the care of her Uncle Alec. Rose is weak and ill, having spent many years tending her father and living without the companionship of people her own age. Uncle Alec thinks that the best thing to do with Rose is to build up her constitution with exercise, fun, and frolic. In this, he engages the assistance of Rose’s seven male cousins who live nearby. The story takes place during her first year at “Aunt Hill,” and covers all the little adventures of the group.

There are some bits that can be rather patronizing and preachy. Although I think Alcott’s basic philosophy about how children should be treated is just as sound today as it was back when she wrote the novel, she can sometimes become too emphatic. The part where everyone acted like Rose getting her ears pierced was akin to her worshipping Satan was particularly annoying. Also, some of the characters have a tendency to be too good to be true. Maybe things were different then, but I just can’t see teenage boys behaving the way the cousins do very often. However, this is mostly a very sweet book and excellent reading for children.

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