Friday Favorites: Little Women

Friday, July 23, 2010

From the very first sentences of Little Women we know the four daughters in the March family: the eldest, Meg, tomboy Jo, gentle Beth and vain Amy. Soon we meet their kind mother, Marmee and from those first moments the reader is part of the family.

Set during the Civil War the March family is left with no men in their household when the father is sent off to war. The remaining house full of women is left to manage on their own.

I first read this when I was in grade school and I was thrilled to discover the character of Jo. She was a stubborn tomboy who longed to be an author and on the very first page she's described as "Jo, who was a bookworm." It was me in every way. Jo was the antidote to every sugary sweet character tossed my way in other books. She wasn't a lady, but she was strong and loving and she was willing to sacrifice anything for the good of her family.

The other characters, their neighbor Laurie, their selfish Aunt March, etc. are engraved in my mind forever. I longed to be there, in their world, acting out the Pickwick Portfolio with them in the attic.

Alcott wrote about intimate family dynamics in a time when little was known about women's interaction in the privacy of their own homes. The book was published in 1869, shortly after the end of the war. She created a family full of women with very different personalities, who must struggle through some horrible trials, but survive because their love for each other holds them together. It's a beautiful story that everyone should read.


Captain Nick Sparrow said...

I love this book! I watched a really cool piece about Ms. Alcott on PBS. You should try to find it if you missed it.

Also, I saw there is a Little Women and Werewolves and part of me wants to read it. What do you think about those kinds of books?

LindyLouMac said...

One of my favourite novels from childhood which is why I read and reviewed March by Geraldine Brooks recently.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Captain - I'll have to check out the PBS special. I read P&P and Zombies when that craze started and there were entertaining parts, but in the end it just made me want to read the original, so I wasn't a huge fan. Let me know how the Werewolves one is if you read it though.

LindyLou - I read that in 2006 and really enjoyed it. It was fascinating to read the story from the father's point of view. He's such an absent character during Little Women. I loved what a strong character Marmee was in that novel.

Ana S. said...

I only read this for the first time last year, but I loved it - especially Jo. And I'm with you and LindyLou on March also!

Jenners said...

This was one of my girlhood favorites too. I so related to Jo ...but never understood why she didn't end up with Laurie. I wanted to end up with Laurie!

Enbrethiliel said...


I think the opening sentences are some of the best in literature! They not only conjure up the characters within minutes but also set up those great dynamics of feminine/domestic interaction you mention.

And the four girls are so real, aren't they? Beth is so painfully shy that I sometimes think Alcott exaggerated her characterisation a little, but everyone else is so girl-next-door. And Laurie is so boy-next-door! Count me as someone else who has never really got over Jo and Laurie not ending up together.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I know! Laurie and Amy always struck me as such a strange pairing.