5 Stars Out Of 5
A refreshing and heartwarming romance.
May 21, 2014
In this beautiful and satisfyingly romantic sequel to Eight Cousins, Louisa May Alcott follows the sweet, young, nineteenth-century heiress, Rose Campbell, through the experiences that bring her from girlhood into womanhood. In the opening chapter, Rose returns to America with her uncle and friend, Phebe, from two years abroad. These two years have brought changes in the two young women as well as in the seven cousins back home on the "Aunt-Hill." As Rose becomes reacquainted with her seven cousinsÃ¢â¬ânow nearly all young menÃ¢â¬âshe discovers that some have changed for good and others for ill. She also discovers that several of her aunts have been speculating about her marriage to one or the other of her handsome cousins in order to keep her fortune in the family. When one of the young men actually falls in love with her, Rose must learn how to handle the love of a young man and how to read the feelings of her own heart. She also learns to discern what makes a man a true gentleman. This new element of romance brings new struggles and joys to the life of twenty-year-old Rose. However, through these struggles and the other new experiences of this young, ambitious woman, the bud that was once the little girl from Eight Cousins begins to bloom, becoming a woman of true virtue.
As Rose in Bloom is one of my favorite books, I struggle to find a true cause for criticism in the abundance of beauty that this book offers. However, one objection that I wrestled with when I read this novel for the first time several years ago was the prospect of Rose marrying one of her cousins. This being generally unheard of in my day and age, I was initially rather scandalized at the thought. One must not ignore historical context, however. In the nineteenth century, the marriage of cousins was not yet unacceptable. Please, before you read this book, drill this fact into your brain. Otherwise, the entire story will be ruined for you.
In addition, it must be noted that the subject matter of this book is slightly heavier than its predecessor, Eight Cousins. Most of the young characters are now in their twenties and, therefore, face the trials and temptations of young adults. One of the young men in particular struggles with alcohol addiction, bringing an element to this book that is more serious than any seen in Eight Cousins. This cousin is also described smoking. However, Alcott gives her heroine, Rose, an admirable distaste for this young man's way of life and examines the true ugliness of such a life without discipline. This novel also sees the tragic death of a characterÃ¢â¬âanother element that makes this novel less of a children's book and more appropriate for young adults.
From a Christian perspective, another objection to this novel is the absence of Jesus Christ from the lives of the characters and other small ways in which Alcott's transcendentalist worldview shows through. Although Rose and her relatives often refer to "God" and "being good," they seem to have no strong foundation for their desires to "be good" other than to please and help each other. The characters also speak and act as if they can make themselves good. To the Christian, however, humans are sinners and need Jesus Christ in order to be truly good. Good works cannot save anyone; they are only the fruit of a life changed by Christ. As long as the reader understands this, however, Alcott's discussion of "being good" is not harmful. Instead, she explores the lives of her characters in a way that expands the reader's understanding of what a truly beautiful and virtuous life looks likeÃ¢â¬âan image that would be nearly spot-on if Christ had not been left out of the picture. (For more discussion on the concept of goodness, see my 2010 blog post "Be Good.")
Despite these few objections, I strongly recommend this novel to any ambitious young reader looking for a good classic romance. Obviously, this genre of novel would generally lend itself to young ladies rather than to the boys, but I would caution parents against giving this book to a lady who is not old or mature enough for romanceÃ¢â¬âeven though this romance is very innocent and lighthearted. Miss Alcott handles Rose's romance tastefully and offers wholesome advice to her readers through the medium of this little book; however, I would still not recommend the Eight Cousins sequel to children under the age of ten due to the more mature elements and subject matter mentioned above.
In closing, I think I can easily say that Rose in Bloom is one of the most refreshing and heartwarming romances that I have read in a long time. Written in Alcott's intelligent, humorous, and engaging style, this book presents a beautiful image of true womanhood, true manhood, and true love. In addition, I have found that this is a novel worth reading over and over again because, although it is as sweet as sugar, it is wholesome at the core and good for the soul.