Are you ready? I’m going to attempt to review three books in one paragraph!
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott were all extremely quick reads; they were not exactly thrillers, but the character development were all masterfully executed so there was continual curiosity to see how so-and-so turn out. Does Tom ever make it back to his master and his family? Does Pudd’nhead Wilson ever shed his terrible nickname “Pudd’nhead” and successfully become a lawyer? Will the little girls ever grow up to be grand old ladies? Yet, despite this investment in the characters, what happens to them is rather expected. If you have read a great many novels, you will probably begin to predict, with alarming accuracy, the outcomes of these respective Americana novels. Nor are the novels’ characters particularly original. For example, though, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was central to rallying sentiment behind the abolitionist movement, in today’s standards, the roles that the African Americans are portrayed in are condescendingly stereotypical, the “mammy”, and the “unerringly faithful manservant”. In Little Women, the main female characters are so good and look up to their mother and father as saints– all of this is interspersed with random Alcott preaching a pious style of life– it’s a bit sickening at times to be so opaquely preached at. Overall, in these three novels, the main characters’ only redeeming qualities are that they are good. They are not antiheros or villains, they are good people to which interesting things happen, and they develop in response to these interesting things in a “good” way. More than anything, these novels serve to reaffirm our beliefs in the goodness of the human mind and heart.
verdict: if you are in search of quick reads of American flavor, go for it! Twain is always good for extra laughs. For those who particularly enjoy romance, I recommend Little Women. In the last 20%, your heart will be broken (mine was broken severely; I had to read a lot of fanfiction before I could get up the courage to read the rest of the novel).