Great or Nothing

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Modern Age

Great or Nothing
Author: McCullough, Joy, Tung Richmond, Caroline, Sharpe, Tess, Spotswood, Jessica
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1942-1943
Geographic Area: North America, Europe
Country: United States, Great Britain
Topics: WWII, American Home Front, Little Women Retelling
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2022

American History > Modern Age > WWII

A reimagining of Little Women set in 1942, when the United States is suddenly embroiled in the second World War, this story, told from each March sister's point of view, is one of grief, love, and self-discovery.

In the fall of 1942, the United States is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the US starts sending troops to the front, the March family of Concord, Massachusetts grieves their own enormous loss: the death of their daughter, Beth.

Under the strain of their grief, Beth's remaining sisters fracture, each going their own way with Jo nursing her wounds and building planes in Connecticut, Meg holding down the home front with Marmee, and Amy living a secret life as a Red Cross volunteer in London--the same city where one Mr. Theodore Laurence is stationed as an army pilot.

Each March sister's point of view is written by a separate author, three in prose and Beth's in verse, still holding the family together from beyond the grave. Woven together, these threads tell a story of finding one's way in a world undergoing catastrophic change.

Emily's Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I loved getting to see what the March sisters would have been up to during World War II. I love reading stories about women's experiences during the war, and the ways that they were able to take part in the war effort, and I think this novel did a great job of exploring that. I loved that each of the sisters was written by a different author. Each of their voices felt distinctly different. I especially loved Beth's poetry and Amy's storyline.

The thing that I didn't love about this book, was that it did not feel like a Little Women retelling. The thing that I (and I think everyone) love about Little Women is the relationships between the sisters and their mother. Marmee was barely in this story, and the sisters are all separated for the entirety of the novel. I think the reason that Amy's chapters were the strongest was that she was with Laurie, so you had their friendship and blossoming romance. The rest of the sisters were all alone and distant - not even writing to each other. So the essence of Little Women was completely missing for me.

So overall, as a story about women and the war effort, it was great. As a Little Women retelling, I don't think it worked.

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