Thursday, January 6, 2011

Little Women - Book Review

Where in the world does a person begin when writing a review of a story that a person has loved all her life through the images of a movie screen rather than the book itself??
I'm so ashamed.
I have always been a fan of American Literature...which is why I've missed the Brontes and the Austens...the Dickens, etc.  Despite my excuses for missing some of the best Brit Lit out there, how in the world an English teacher/Am. Lit. fan reaches the age of 42 without actually reading Little Women I'll never know.
I decided to take care of that problem on Christmas morning when I opened my Kindle :)

I have to be honest and say that I was a little nervous; I've heard some people's negative comments about overly sweet, immature and romanticized descriptions of life within Louisa May Alcott's most famous work.  I didn't want to have that movie vs. book experience that happens so many times...where one ruins the I took a deep breath, took my time and cherished the words on the page.
My reading of Little Women was from the perspective of a mother of 3 daughters...I am not overly sentimental yet am grateful for honest hearth and home.  I am a woman of the world...who travels all over the country preaching what I believe about literacy and education...but who also loves to be at home and be the "matriarach" of my family.
Oh, if I could be half the mother that Marmee was to those girls!

"She was not elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman, and the girls thought the gray cloak and unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in the world."

Most everyone knows the story of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, their strong-willed, tough as nails and tireless mother, Marmee, as well as their father who is away for most of the book serving in the Civil War.  Marmee must support her four very different daughters alone on a meager existence while still serving her community and taking care of those who have been affected even more by poverty.
With her gentle but strict teaching and guidance, Marmee is able to give each daughter the love, discipline and support that each girl grow and become the person that each daughter will become by the end of the novel.
Marmee is not perfect; she has a temper of her own and is strong-willed.  She has high expectations for her daughters whether their aspirations include marriage and motherhood or not.  She encourages her daughters to be independent, to be able to support themselves and not to settle...for money, looks, or flighty things that other "silly" girls care about.

Meg, the oldest daughter is the first to find a life partner, which further intertwines the March's lives with their neighbor Mr. Laurence and his grandson Laurie who is best friends with Jo and will eventually marry one of the March sisters.  The third sister Beth is the quiet one and of course will be the subject of the most heartwrenching tragedy in the book.  I bawl my eyes out during this portion of the matter which version it is.  In the book, however, there is a chapter earlier that is left out of the movies...Beth and Jo go to the seaside hoping to find fresh air and strength to help Beth is here that Beth prepares Jo for the future.  I was crying so hard during this chapter that I could not see my Kindle screen and scared the Head of My Household to death!

After returning from the beach, Jo becomes a source of strength for her mother, their housekeeper Hannah and their father who returns from the war after falling ill.

"Tired with her short journey, Beth went at once to bed, saying how glad she was to be home, and when Jo went down, she found that she would be spared the hard task of telling Beth's secret.  Her father stood leaning his head on the mantelpiece and did not turn as she came in, but her mother stretched out her arms as if for help, and Jo went to comfort her without a word."

Little Amy is the youngest and the prissiest...but even she grows up to be a mature young woman in her own time...and in her own way.
I think that's what amazes me most about the heck she manages to figure out 4 very different young women and to give each of them what she needs to learn some life lessons the hard way and then to be ok in the her own in the world she has the energy for all this childrearing pretty much boggles my mind as well.

"...the parents who had taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power."

Anyone who is a fan of the movie will be a fan of the original story...for there is more in the book than in the movie (as usual, right)...more little tidbits of their lives...and the reader will notice a few things added by Hollywood that are not actually in the original story.
I'm relieved to tell you that after reading the book, I love both the movie and the book...that doesn't happen very often for me. 
Little Women is a beautiful story of four young women with aspirations ahead of their time who find that family is really everything in the end.
Sit back and read this one when you have time to really enjoy it.


  1. Fantastic review! My aunt, who is only a few years older than me, passed me her worn copy of Little Women when I was 12 years old and I will ever remember how this novel moved me! (shhhh! I love the movies too!)

  2. I loved this book when I read it as a child ... it would be interesting to revisit it with a mother's eyes. Wonderful review! Glad you finally got to know this one ... though it made for great movies too.

  3. I read this book at about 12 or 13 and will always love it. Beth was always my favourite character, and like you I cry whenever I read the seaside scene.

    I can already tell what Joseph's (my kitten) personality is going to be like. He's going to be sociable, cuddly but a bit silly.

  4. I loved this book when I was young and always avoided rereading it fearing I would find it overly sentimental or juvenile and it would lose some of it's luster. Then a few years ago I did read it again and loved it all the more. Reading it as an adult is a wonderful experience. I'm glad you finally had a chance to read this.

  5. I love, love, love this book. I re-read it recently and along with it, the two sequels. Of the three, Little Men is my favorite but they are all terrific.