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Shawl-Straps: A Second Series of Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag

Written by:
Louisa May Alcott
Narrated by:
LibriVox Volunteers

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
January 2015
4 hours 27 minutes
Unlike the other volumes in this series, which are books of childrens' stories, Shawl-Straps is a novel. It is the story of Amanda, Matilda, and Lavinia, three sisters who are travelling in Europe. The book is based on Louisa May Alcott's own travels with her sister. She states in the preface:

"There is a sort of fate about writing books of travel which it is impossible to escape. It is vain to declare that no inducement will bribe one to do it, that there is nothing new to tell, and that nobody wants to read the worn-out story: sooner or later the deed is done, and not till the book is safely shelved does peace descend upon the victim of this mysterious doom. The only way in which this affliction may be lightened to a long-suffering public is to make the work as cheerful and as short as possible. With this hope the undersigned bore has abstained from giving the dimensions of any church, the population of any city, or description of famous places, as far as in her lay; but confined herself to the personal haps and mishaps, adventures and experiences, of her wanderers." - Louisa M. Alcott, November 1872.
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Cynthia B.

Wonderful travelogue of three American women touring Europe in the 19th century. Clearly semi-autobiographical with many fascinating authentic details (being able to “watch” and listen to an opera performance in Italy while dressed for bed in their adjacent hotel room because the backstage was in full view, cavorting with St Bernard dogs at the Swiss monastery that bred them, etc.) My favorite takeaway is Alcott’s final point: she meant it for Victorian era women but it’s still resonant: don’t be afraid to travel without a man; take your sister, take your women friends, go on your adventures as independent women and see the world.

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A lovely ramble through Europe with three American ladies. Their thoughts and experiences of country places and cities alike. Fascinating to discover what Europe was like in the later part of the 1800’s. And amusing at times to see these places through the eyes of Americans being American about their opinions of the customs of places, comparing them with the customs they valued as “better “. I would recommend reading the book with its descriptions of places before the World Wars left their mark. The narrators were good, though it might have been better if the younger reader had better knowledge of the pronunciation of words with a French origin. Even the older ones could have brushed up on the proper pronunciation of historical places. But, on the other hand, perhaps it lends another facet to the idea of Americans in Europe!

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