Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thoughts on Little Women

Little Women (and Good Wives)

Alcott, Louisa May (1868). [Genre: Classic] 

Little Women was one of my Classics Club picks, because unlike seemingly just about everyone else in the Western world, I never read it as a child. In fact I've never read it at all. Or seen any of the adaptations. My knowledge going in was only that there is a character called Jo and that Beth dies. . . . because I think everyone knows that.

I enjoyed Little Women, but I didn't love it. Maybe that's simply because I didn't grow up with it in the way that a lot of others did? I found the first half almost bland. Regardless of their 'faults' all four girls are good to the extent of bordering on saintly (Beth is downright saintly) and the conflict/drama just didn't feel that dramatic. It's all very quiet and domestic. Although the four sisters have token traits, it was well into the novel that I stopped struggling to remember who was who, especially between Meg and Amy. But again, I find myself questioning whether I found it lacking simply because I didn't read it as a child, because there are other classic novels that I have great affection for with a similar tone; What Katy Did for example.

The pace picked up for me one we hit part two (Good Wives) and the March sisters start to leave their childhood home. Expanding the setting brought in new characters and perspectives and definitely added something in comparison to the isolation of the first half. By then I had gotten to know the characters well enough that I actually cared about the Laurie/Amy and Jo/Bhaer pairings - for a start I expressed adamantly to my husband that Jo should have married Laurie, but by the end I had warmed up to Bhaer a little more. Jo was the character that stood out the most for me throughout, as I suspect she does for many. She is a true individual and I loved that she could be boyish without being unfeminine, especially as she grew older. Meg also stood out for me, although far more in the second half than in the first. As someone still in her first years of marriage, I could easily identify with the struggle to maintain both husband and home relationships (although in my case it's due to work rather than babies!). Meg learns a lot of valuable lessons, some of which I felt like I could apply better myself sometimes!

Overall, I can understand why Little Women is a classic. I kind of wish I had been exposed to it as a child, as I suspect I would have found it much more satisfying that way. In any case I'm looking forward to watching some adaptations now (any recommendations?) and the characters had me hooked enough by the end to put Little Men and Jo's Boys on my to-read list for the future.

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