Official Synopsis from Goodreads: Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.
It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.
Setting: Civil War Era Massachusetts
My Copy Came From: I was gifted the paperback version.
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Review: A lovely, inspirational read! Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a much beloved classic tale of four sisters. I read this book a long time ago, and I’ve watched various adaptations multiple times over the years, so much of the plot of this read was familiar. It’s a simple plot, basically it follows the lives of the sisters as they grow up and find sorrow and love, and I think the plot translates well to a modern day audience. While sometimes feeling a bit preachy, the girls struggle with poverty and contentment. I found their struggles with being content to be relatable, and this is once again another classic that has important lessons that we modern readers can learn from.
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
“We’ve got Father and Mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.
What many of the adaptations miss that the book really highlights, is that this isn’t just Jo’s story. We read of Meg falling in love and marrying, but in the book her story continues. In many adaptations, she’s just “happily married” and that’s the end of anything exciting for Meg. Another character that gets looked over many times is Amy. Now, my mom actually named me after the character of Amy, and so I’m always interested in how she is portrayed, and it is normally as spoiled and unlikable. But in the book, she grows and learns, and she isn’t as annoying on the page as she is usually portrayed on the screen. I enjoyed reading about her trip to Europe, and how her relationship with Laurie deepens and grows.
But the heart of this book is really Jo, as she grows up and finds herself with her writing and finds love. Without spoilers, I must say that absolutely Jo made the right romantic decisions here! I can see why she’s such a popular character and role model, but I did enjoy all of the sisters very much.
“I don’t understand it. What can there be in a simple little story like that to make people praise it so?” she said, quite bewildered.
“There is truth in it, Jo, that’s the secret; humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote with no thought of fame or money, and put your heart into it, my daughter; you have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success.”
One character that I didn’t actually care for was Laurie. He comes across much better on the screen than he does on the page, and I found him quite frustrating and moody, and he annoyed me for most of the book.
I loved all of the scenes that I had forgotten about, from Amy getting her foot stuck in plaster, to Meg having a breakdown while attempting to make jelly, and Jo deciding that Beth loves Laurie. Also entertaining was Amy’s party where only one person shows up and her attempt to sell her art at a local fair.
“I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg, right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it, so that when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world—marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing—and, when well used, a noble thing—but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”
There’s so much to this book, and it shouldn’t be dismissed as an old, unrelatable classic. There’s war and death, love and sadness, humor and escapades, romance and friendship, and on and on. Little Women is as enjoyable as ever and I hope to soon read Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
Bottom Line: A charming, delightful read.