“Rose sat all alone in the big best parlor, with her little handkerchief laid ready to catch the first tear, for she was thinking of her troubles, and a shower was expected.”
And so the reader is introduced to Rose Campbell, who has recently lost her only remaining parent, her father, and who is left to the care of six obtrusive aunts and their families who live on “The Aunt Hill”. Then, in walks her guardian, Uncle Alec, and her life is changed forever. Uncle Alec makes certain that Rose does not give in to despair, mitigates the influence of Aunt Myra’s hypochondriac tendencies, and Rose meets her seven boy cousins who turn out to be much more pleasant than expected.
The book follows Rose as she grows from a nervous, delicate, serious child to blossom under her uncle’s moral guidance into a healthy, selfless, admirable, young lady, who sets a good example for her mischievous cousins. While I usually really enjoy books with a moral lesson, I found Alcott would often get in the way of her characters. Instead of allowing them to show the correct way to behave, she would interject long moral or societal monologues that detracted from the essence of the message; at times I felt like I was being whacked on the back of the head with a moral baguette. Even so, her ideas were ahead of their time and interesting to read. In effect, Rose teaches us to to take care of ourselves, to think of others, and to stay loyal to family. Eight Cousins is a wonderfully timeless read!