Little Women

This is my third book in one week!  I guess I’m way ahead in this one-book-a-week game. Granted, two of them were small, but Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is over 600 pages. So…http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0199538115&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifr

I just finished the book and have all the time in the world, so I want to write while my impressions are fresh.  The book drags in the beginning, and is at times quite irritating, to be honest. I found myself having difficulty getting into it. Everything is so quaint and happy-go-lucky.  As much as we may believe that people being nothing but nice to each other is a goal to be worked towards (and it is, of course), the prospect of reading a book with no conflict in it is boring.

The book picks up a few chapters in, however, and definitely grows more and more interesting as it progresses.  For those that haven’t read it, it follows a family–The Marches–and details the experiences and adventures of the four daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.  It is set in the 19th century, and opens at the time of the American Civil War.  The father is away doing his duty in the war, and the little family struggles with poverty and domestic life.  Much of the text is didactic, and at times appears to be a series of short stories inside the overlaying whole, with morals built in to chapters.  This surprised me a little bit, at first, for having read some of Alcott’s other works, I thought that she was more of a rebel.  I soon realized, however, that Alcott does something interesting in her work.  Rather than be overtly feminist, she seems to weave her message into a pleasure tale.  What I took away from it is this: that a woman can embrace her femininity, indulge in fashions and girlie wiles, be the domestic goddess of a home, marry and raise children, while still being strong and independent. For instance, all the girls who marry marry for love, rather than riches and position, as their peers do.  They learn womanly arts, but are co-leaders in their families with their husbands, rather than servants to their men.  And they are willingly cooperative with their families, submissive–not in the unfortunate way that many women are often forced into, but out of Christian love and humility–and self-sacrificing.  And all the girls are rewarded in their own way for their goodness and charity.  It’s a rosy, idealistic way to view the world, but it makes one happy to read it. I found myself wishing to strive to be a better, kinder person because of this book. 

It’s actually quite emotionally grueling. There were times when I felt like laughing out loud, and did, for there is much joy and quite a few funny moments in the novel.  Other times were so unutterably sad that I found myself tearing up. It really is quite a roller coaster of emotions.  And I was rarely bored with it, after about the fifth chapter. The characters are especially interesting. I expected them to be flat, but they are really quite well-written. My favorite, of course, is Jo, the irrepressible tomboy who is also a writer.  As a whole, all the girls are gentle, loving and kind, but have other traits that set them apart from their sisters enough to make them interesting.  And Laurie is just about one of my favorite characters in all of literature. He is so fun and entertaining, mischievous and friendly.  It’s worth reading for the characters alone, at some points.

As it’s a classic, I urge everyone to read it, especially women. Perhaps only women. I can understand how this novel might be difficult, if not impossible, to get through for men.  It’s quite good though.

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4 thoughts on “Little Women

  1. Jen says:

    I love this book! I read it when I was younger and really liked it, but a couple of years ago I took a lit class and the professor kinda tore it apart. She said that basically it was written as a manual for girls to know how they should act, and nothing more, that Jo was a representation of Alcott herself, and that Laurie couldn't possibly exist as a real person. It kind of ruined the book for me for awhile, but I think I could read it again and be ok, haha. I really enjoyed your review here!

  2. What a pessimistic view of the novel. I definitely saw Alcott in Jo, so I agree with the professor there, but I don't think it's just a primer for good behavior. And maybe Laurie couldn't exist, but it's a NOVEL. So we're automatically suspending our disbelief because we know it's fiction. You should read it again without his nasty voice in your head.

  3. Andy says:

    I liked Little Men a lot, too.

  4. I totally forgot about Little Men! I'll have to check it out. Is it as long as Little Women? Thanks for the rec.

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