When asked how many times she has read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Donnelly can't give an exact number. "Actually, I've never stopped reading it,'' she said. "I first read it when I was 9, and I remember the character Amy was 12 and it seemed she was quite grown up.'' Donnelly, a Londoner who now lives in Los Angeles, has published The Little Women Letters, which brings Alcott's classic forward 150 years through the imagined lives of Jo March's descendants.
What's on your nightstand?
First of all, Little Women. I immigrated to America and I bought an American copy. Life without it was not an option for me. The characters are the sisters I didn't have, and there's plain old girl talk. I don't think Jane Austen's or Emily Bronte's girls would talk about hair or clothes, but the March girls do it all the time, and it comforts me. I also have Miss Alcott's E-mail by Kit Bakke. It's an imagined correspondence between a political activist in the '70s and Alcott. I've also got The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern and Broken Pieces: A Library Life, 1941-1978 by Michael Gorman. Michael is a very prominent librarian, served as president of the American Library Association, and happens to be my first cousin. We have slightly parallel lives.
Have you read Cecelia Ahern before?
She's the daughter of Ireland's prime minister, Bertie Ahern, and yes, I have read her before. She's well known for PS, I Love You, and she's lively and I like her characters.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer