REVIEW: 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
I must say, the second time around, I was much more involved. Lots of spoilers here, so look out!
Maybe it's because Mother's Day commercials are popping up more and more frequently, but I want to start by saying the copy of Little Women I read was given to me by my mother. I cherished reading it even more now that we've got a better relationship than we did when I was a teenager. My mom is not exactly comparable to Marmee (because she's a MODERN WOMAN!), but she is pretty freakin' great, and only now that I'm grown up can I see that clearly. *tear* (I know, sorry for the sappiness.)
In all sincerity, reading this book again was like looking back on my relationship with my mom. Now that I'm an adult, and I've gone through my own transformation, I can definitely appreciate the book that much more. I'll still say Part I was my favorite: the girls' innocent friendship with Laurie, and the vastness of their imaginations, kept a sweet smile on my face the whole way through. I didn't feel nostalgia, but again, there was appreciation there for the naivete of childhood dreams and growing life experiences. I never noticed before all the morals embedded into each chapter: I value more the morals in Part I, because they are the lessons we must learn to thrive as good human beings. In Part II, the lessons become more targeted -- they are the lessons 19th century America encouraged its women to learn. I'll admit that living in the 21st century caused the feminist in me to ruffle a little at some of the notions about being a "good woman." The title even brings out the wryness in me. But that's another story.
My affinities for the March sisters changed for me during this second, full reading, too. When I first read the book, I was about eleven years old, and my favorite character was Jo. At the time, I identified most with scrappy young girls who were pretty on the inside, whose best friends often became their lovers. I think that's part of the reason I became so disenchanted with the second half of the book -- I wanted nothing more than for Jo and Laurie to be married, like a Disney movie. As I read on this time, I became less and less enamored with her...her independence forced her into a lonely, spinster-like individual. It bothered me that she completely gave up her writing, and that by marrying, she redeems herself as a woman. Jo is an enigma, for she finds her calling as a caregiver (that shouldn't have surprised me, as we saw all the passion she put into looking after Beth), but to me, her generosity always seemed rather uncharacteristic, even sometimes self-serving (I imagined her saying, "What shall I do without...?"). Mostly I was disappointed. I so wanted her to move to New York, have a writing career and a family, too. And somehow, her Professor seemed all wrong...quite convenient, if you ask me.
This time around, I more identified with Amy. I can reflect back on myself as a little girl, and realize that she is the one I was probably most like: a desire for popularity and beauty, a wish to be good and unselfish, and a drive to be educated and rich. Amy is also the one I most admire in the book now, for she overcomes her childhood trivialities and grows into a charming, collected, rational woman. She also gets to marry Laurie, and I do approve of the match there...although I believe that if Jo had only loved Laurie from the beginning, she would not have been so hard for me to identify with...although I don't believe that Laurie would have turned out as well as he did if that had happened. What a pickle.
Beth I will never identify with. Only the good die young, I guess. Still trying to figure that one out. Thoughts?
Oh, there is so much about this book I could ramble on and on about...but I think I'll leave the rest of the discussion for the comments. I did thoroughly enjoy the story, and this copy is getting a very privileged place on my shelf.
How's a tagline for a closer? "Little Women. Better than the Vampire Diaries by a million."
NEXT UP: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, by J. Randy Taraborrelli. I hope to have this hefty hardcover biography finished by June 1...Ms. Monroe's 84th birthday.