I think Little Women is the first annotated book I’ve read, and I didn’t quite know what to expect going in. I was hoping that the annotations would give me some context for the time period and country that the book was set in. Not living in America, my knowledge of the American Civil War is hazy, at best. (And mostly comes from pop culture, since it’s not a topic any of my many schools elected to cover.)
However, colonial America, especially New England with its Puritan heritage, associated billiards with taverns where men gambled, smoked and drank alcohol. When John Quincy Adams placed a pool table in the White House in 182, many people questioned his moral character. Michael Phelan (1817-1871), often called the father of American billiards, helped change the popular attitude toward the game when he opened an elegant pool hall in New York in 1850.Annotated Little Women, ed. Daniel Shealy
Daniel Shealy’s annotations didn’t quite give me that. In fact, judging by the annotation explaining what cricket was, I think this was annotated for American audiences. Many of the annotations were about how much of Little Women corresponds to Louisa May Alcott’s actual life. (More than I thought!) Those were mildly interesting.
My brave old mother, with the ardor of many unquenchable Mays shining in her face, cried out: “Tell [Lucy Stone] I am seventy-three, but I mean to go to the polls before I die, even if my three daughters have to carry me.Letter, Louisa May Alcott
The annotations explaining where various places in Europe were, however, I could have done without. Especially in the latter part of the book, when Amy is living in Europe, these were so thickly-scattered through the paragraphs that it became hard to read.
So a bit of a mixed bag. I probably didn’t get enough out of the annotations to make it worth the extra price and shelf-space this edition takes up. But I would still be interested to try other annotated books in future! Perhaps when they are less based on one person’s real life, they’ll annotate more about cultural context.