Under the Lilacs Hardcover – Jun 1977
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About the Author
Born in 1832, she never travelde from her rural home. Notwithstanding, she has written prose that people the world over hve enjoyed. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Arriving soon after the runaways are Celia and her young brother Thornton, returning to their old home after being gone for years. Thorny is weak from a long illness and is wheelchair-ridden and crabby although he admits that Celia is "the best sister that ever was". She hires Ben to amuse her brother during his convalescence while allowing Babs and Betty, whose mother takes care of the premises, to continue to play house on the porch and path. The kids occupy themselves with botanical expeditions, ship-building, water wheels and other waterworks play, picnics, baseball and archery. Babs loses Sancho at a circus and Betty finds him again in pitiful shape after accompanying Thorny to the dentist. Celia breaks her arm after a fall from her horse and is rescued by Ben. He is gradually weaned away from the roving circus life although Celia invites the school to a splendid birthday party for him where he shows himself in his former circus glory as Cupid on a galloping horse. There is a little trouble with missing money and false accusations but Ben, who is honest and true, gradually endears himself to the two families. Several joyous unions and reunions take place at the end as well as one intended for the future, although in the midst of preparing for one, the incorrigible Babs almost burns down the house under the lilacs. The tone is quaint and old-fashioned but the simple pleasures of life shine through and Ben is both boy-like and engaging.
Louisa May Alcott is a wonderful writer whose narration tells a story like one's favorite grandmother or maiden aunt. "Under the Lilacs" is just her style in that way, but not in every way. The excellent character development present in "Little Women" is absent here (save sweet Ben, prickly Thorny - ha-ha, get it? - and little Sancho). Bab is the daring sister and Betty is the ladylike sister, and there's really not much else to them. Miss Celia's a darling but also doesn't have much personality.
The plot is also rather episodic. "Little Women" and "Eight Cousins" were too, of course, but the episodes just felt so random here. They didn't feel like they were building toward anything - Ben grows up, of course, and so do the girls, but I felt like I needed a little more than that. More payoff, or something. "Under the Lilacs" just didn't grab me like "Little Women," "Eight Cousins," or even "An Old-Fashioned Girl."
Of course, I'm not saying not to read it. Just don't expect another "Little Women."