Louisa May Alcott came from a family of professional busybodies (in a good way); they were temperance advocates, abolitionists and feminists. In most of Alcott's books for young people, she endeavors to show female characters that are hard-working, educated and striving to better themselves. She had as much contempt for a society that kept well-to-do young women empty-headed, vain and idle as she did compassion for women whose poverty forced them to endless toil. Work is the story of Christie Devon, a New England orphan brought up by her kind aunt and hard-hearted uncle. Rather than be dependent on (and beholden to) her relatives all her life, she strikes out on her own, determined to work and make an independent life for herself. Christie moves through a series of careers, is proposed to by a rich man (who she refuses) and gets herself into trouble standing up for a friend who has been a "fallen woman." This loses Christie her job; she steadily declines into melancholy until she is helped by kind people. She falls in love and marries, only to lose her husband in the Civil War. Her short marriage brings her a child, which inspires her to work once more, so that she cannot not only give her daughter a better life but help other women. Alcott's prose is hearty and somewhat syrupy. I liked the book for its realistic understanding of the lot of women in the 19th century. Christie Devon isn't a Horatio Alger-type hero; she can't be, because no matter how much of a will most 19th century women brought to work, the decks were stacked against them. They had too little practical training, too few opportunities and the margin for error was far too thin. (Illness or a moral slip brought almost certain disaster.) I found the story pleasant and interesting. Alcott even gets to indulge her taste for melodrama in one chapter in which Christie works for a family with hereditary madness in their genes.