Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

The process of growing from child to adult is always fascinating. Change is by its nature uncomfortable in difficult. People frequently try to keep their habits the same. Yet, childhood cannot last physically, mentally, socially, philosophically or spiritually. Young ones are constantly prodded to change by changing surroundings and expectations. Some change for the better; others become rotten and fall off the vine. Rose shows a lovely example of a graceful journey from childhood to adulthood that many could copy to their benefit. On another note this book feels so familiar in tone, style and language that I find it hard to comprehend that is was written and published over 140 years ago. I guess great books stand the test of time because they feel universal. Be sure to first read Eight Cousins to fully enjoy this novel.

Rose and Phebe return to from their years abroad in Europe traveling alongside Uncle Alec. Both have grown in manner and intelligence while away from Rose’s seven cousins. Phebe has blossomed into an astounding singer and Rose has acquired expanded ideas about female independence and autonomy. In Europe, Rose decided to devote her life and inherited family fortune to charity. The idea of her squandering her fortune in this way instead of keeping it in the family by marrying one of the elder cousins frightens the rest of the family. Rose is appalled by this disrespect towards her own free will instead deciding not to immediately commit or entertain the idea of marriage. This mildly upsets the family who are taken aback by this young independent woman. Archie, who the Aunts had assumed would marry Rose, becomes smitten with Phebe after just one song. Later on Archie’s affection causes a controversy among the Aunts. To think that the eldest cousin would sully the family name by marrying a woman from the poor house. The family is back together for better or worse. If you wait for spring time, you will see Rose in Bloom.


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Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott ( 1875)

Uncle Mac may be the greatest exponent of practical philosophy for children. His philosophies are practical and all eight cousins benefited mightily by his presence. Novel ideas such as exercise and food as medicine dot the pages of this book. These small crumbs of advice sweeten a rollicking story in the perfect way, not too sugary. I wish I had internalized this advice as a young child. Life would have been easier.

Twelve year old Rose Campbell’s life has gone from happy to tragic. The death of her father, her only remaining parent, puts her in an uncontrollably gloomy mood. She muddles around the “Aunt House”, a house where many of her aunts live, without any verve or energy for life. Her dad was everything to her and now life seems to drag. Along comes her Uncle Mac determined to care for this poor child and teach her the ways of the world. His simple, real world advice endears him to her immediately. There father-daughter relationship blossoms as they both go to extreme lengths to make the other happy. In time, she gains more friends quickly growing chummy with the merry band of seven male cousins who live nearby. They take her on adventures and she mediates their feuds. Her dearest friend, Phebe, is ever dependable and supportive. In short, she learns to run, laugh and be happy again by taking Uncle Mac’s miracle course. The once sickly child now explores the world with vibrant curiosity. Don’t be shy; introduce yourself to the Eight Cousins.


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Molly Brown’s Senior Days by Nell Speed (1913)

Every time I enter a busy cafe or coffee shop I feel tired. Somehow the atmosphere puts me in sympathy with the employees and I feel as if I opened the store and have been working without a break for hours. The smell of coffee grounds and pastries can also be stifling not to mention the busy customers in need of a fix. My mind is slowly yielding on this point. Maybe creating a menu and trying out recipes would be exciting. Maybe by meeting new people constantly I would look forward to each day with newfound enthusiasm. Madeleine Petit and Judith Blount recount their summer spent running a tea room so they can afford to attend college. The change in Judith still astounds me. Going from rich and entitled to focused and humble is extremely difficult. Plus, Ms. Petit has always been the busy bee I aspire to be.

The queens girls arrive back for their final year to learn some bad news. Professor Green overworked himself during the summer and has ended up ill in the hospital. Molly takes this news extremely hard. She has always looked up to Professor Green and she takes it even harder when she eventually learns that he worked to pay off debts incurred in buying her families apple orchard. This purchase gave Molly the money to continue attending college. Judy, the friend whisperer, makes friends with another destructive person and the rest of the queens girls feel like its a rerun. Will Judy’s new friend get her in trouble or will she realize her error before it’s too late? And who is the campus ghost that is frightening those who stay out late? Go back to school with Molly Brown’s Senior Days.


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Molly Brown’s Junior Days by Nell Speed (1912)

Reading this series I’ve come to the conclusion, once again, that honesty and straightforwardness is the best policy. Numerous misunderstanding appear because some student assumes that they know all without asking. I’ll try in the future to give people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone should have the opportunity to explain themselves. I wonder how long this resolution will last. My resolutions are fickle.

Another exciting year away at college in Wellington. Molly, Nance, Judy and the rest of the Queens girls move into the Quadrangle leading to a string of dramatic and sweet moments. A mix up between these three almost results in their expulsion from the college. It gets so serious that the school president personally comes over to their dorm. A bunch of new students arrive and I found Minerva Higgins especially amusing. Minerva is a precocious freshman from a small town where she was the top honors student. She arrives on campus with a big ego that won’t stand down to anything. The upperclassman try to cut Minerva down to size but it still takes most of her freshman year for her to learn her lesson. Last but not least Judith Blount finally listens to Kendrick. Sit down, be humble. Madeleine Petit becomes her best friend and teaches her the advantages of hard work. Pack up your books and take the early train to Molly Brown’s Junior Days.


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Molly Brown’s Sophomore Days by Nell Speed (1912)

The hard times hit when we least expect it. Like a train that breaks down just before it exits the tunnel surprises can stress even the calmest people. Molly Brown is forced to endure a year of financial anxiety. Already one of the poorer students at Wellington, Ms. Brown learns that her families investments have been a complete flop. Worried about the future amid financial insecurity Molly is forced to decide her best path forward. Does she forget the present and focus on the future? Does she savor the present while procrastinating the future? Or does she take the middle road by working hard and hoping for her just returns? Each person is defined by how the deal with extraordinary situations. What type of person is Molly Brown?

Volume 2 of the Molly Brown series is another riot. The girls of Queen’s Cottage remain largely unchanged except for the charming a Otoyo, a freshman from Tokyo, Japan. Otoyo fits in instantly with the family in Queen’s with her hard work ethic and sincere manner. The whole crew go on a series of adventures featuring as diverse activities as running from cows and midnight ice skating. Share the laughs, smiles and frustrations with the students from Wellington College in Molly Brown’s Sophomore Days.


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Molly Brown’s Freshman Days by Nell Speed (1912)

In anime it might be called slice of life. On television it might be described as a sitcom or a drama. With books from a hundred years ago, I’m not sure which genre fits it best. The story contains elements of drama, adventure, and humor. In the end, categories are meaningless. They only allow the casual reader a higher chance of guessing the contents before they start reading. Great authors never write with the genre as the focus. Some adventure books get the heart racing . Others books attempt to create fear and horror. Still others strive to create laughter. You may think differently but I really enjoy when a book is like a cup of tea. A cup of tea is light, warm, relaxing and helps clear the mind of worries.

Molly Brown steps onto campus and slowly but surely all parts campus life start to orbit her. She does not desire nor control this change in campus events but the change is evident nonetheless. You spend the year with Molly and the other girls of Queen’s Cottage as they attend Wellington College. The initially nervous Molly takes only a moment to feel at home far away from where she grew up in Kentucky. Quickly she becomes lifelong friends of Judy and Nance the bond only growing stronger as the year continues. Her adventures and mistakes are humorous and endearing. Apply to Wellington College by reading Molly Brown’s Freshman Days.


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A Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith (1892)

My unabashed love for this little book will be hard to explain. The book itself is a lowkey slice-of-life novel based in the 1890’s written as a diary. Each chapter collects almost a weeks worth of entries in the dull life of Charles Pooter. We hear about his many awkward moments and wait patiently for his rare, polite anger. Attempting to read this monotonous comedy in one sitting will just create an excess of snores. A chapter or two a day will make you crack a smile. In other words, consume this diary like an IV instead of shot.

Charles Pooter and his wife Caroline live a quiet homely life in the suburb of Holloway. They don’t worry about the world’s big problems. Instead, they might play dominoes in the evening after a simple dinner. Or he may complain about his job as a city clerk. Or they may worry of the future of their son, Lupin. In between these everyday occurrences, little coincidences will make you smile. Start your own journal after reading A Diary of a Nobody.


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