Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Book 77 of 2012: Under the Lilacs

I got Under the Lilacs as a free download on Amazon mainly because I needed another book beginning with U for the Autumn Challenge, I went for it based on the fact that I recognised Louisa May Alcott's name. I remembered reading Little Women when I was younger but as far as I could remember, I'd never read this. But right from the very beginning it all felt very familiar and by the end of the book I knew I'd read it before. I never owned a copy so it must've been one I borrowed from the library.
Warning, this review may contain some spoilers, proceed with caution.

The story focuses on three children; sisters Bab and Betty who live beside/in the grounds of a large house belonging to a wealthy family, and Ben who has run away from the circus with his dog, Sancho, following his father's death (and his subsequent ill-treatment at the hands of the circus owner).

It plods along nicely from one event to another covering around six months in their lives. Bab and Betty's mother takes in Ben, helps him find work; the owner of the big house, Miss Celia, and her invalid brother Thorny move back to the area; there are sad bits and happy bits and one section leads neatly into the next, though it's maybe a little predictable at times.

It's the sort of story that would make a good bedtime story because the chapters are pretty short. Although there are little plots which go across several chapters, generally each chapter has a resolution (even if it's not always a happy resolution). It's a children's book, but it's an old children's book, so I think it would appeal to children who were interested in that sort of story.

It is full of words which most children today would probably struggle with. I was glad that I was reading it on my Kindle so I could look up any word I was unsure of, there were a few! The version I read was a free ebook version and there were a few annoying mistakes in the text (any time it should have read 'bell' it inevitably read 'Ben'), but that was easily overlooked.

It was a wonderfully quick little read, maybe a little bit predictable in places. There were some places where I felt really sad, particularly when Sancho is stolen and returns minus his tail. I loved the relationship between Celia and Thorny, it reminded me a little of me and my little brother.

Most of the chapters or mini plots within the story had some sort of moral message. There were little religious lessons there too which occasionally came across as a bit preachy but that's mostly down to the age of the book. I think there would be plenty of discussion opportunities if you were reading if with a younger child, but for a nice little read by yourself it's a lovely little read.

""She asked me come that day. I have been very busy. I had measles. Do you have them here?" asked the guest, as if anxious to compare notes on the sad subject.
"We had ours ever so long ago. What have you been doing besides having measles?" said Betty, showing polite interest."
Page 210

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