“Seldom except in books do the dying utter memorable words, see visions, or depart with beatified countenances, and those who have sped many parting souls know that to most the end comes as naturally and simply as sleep.” Louisa May Alcott
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Genre: Fiction, classics
Published by Barnes & Nobles Classics, 2004 (originally in 1868-9)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I will definitely come back to this one.
Reviewed by Indiana
This book has gotten quite a lot of buzz lately due to a few upcoming remakes. But Little Women has long been a part of my family history. My grandmother, a well-read woman, named my mother after Jo, one of the strong-willed and brilliant central characters in this novel.
To this day, I’ve no idea how my grandmother had the foresight to name my mother that, but it fits her perfectly. There were so many Jo-centered scenes where she’s either thrown into a rage, or up until all hours of the night trying to write the perfect manuscript or make everyone in the family new roles for some production, where I had tears of laughter running down my face because they reminded me so much of my mom.
Who knows, maybe by naming my mom Jo, she set my mom off down a certain character course in life. Or, especially because my mom hasn’t yet read the book, it didn’t impact her identity at all. But I like to think that right from the moment my grandmother met my mom, she knew that that beautiful redhead was a Jo through and through.
Regardless, Jo is perhaps the best character to be named after in this classic tale and I would argue the strongest. She’s the writer of the family, always making plays for her sisters Beth, Amy, and Meg. Their father is away serving in the Civil War as a pastor and although the family is relatively poor, they’re mostly able to put food on the table and the mother, known as Marmee, is always pushing them to serve other families.
The girls have a morphing dynamic throughout childhood, as is normal in most families. Amy is sweet, but mostly cares about rather vapid things and is striving to become a famous artist. Beth is quiet, perhaps the sweetest character, and is sickly throughout the book. Meg is hardworking and wants to earn money for her family before going off and marrying.
Throughout their childhood, the girls sometimes lament that they have to work, unlike many other girls they know at their age. However, Marmee and experience teaches them that working is by far a calamity.
As they get older, trying to find their ways in a world with relatively limited options before them, Jo finds a job as a teacher in a sort of boarding school, Amy studies and goes abroad to make connections and art, Meg finds love, and Beth gets by at home.
The book delves into the trials and triumphs of each life, spending a good deal of time on the character development of each sister.
It’s interesting to see the pitfalls of the paths that the sisters go down: Jo feels she will always be a spinster, Amy like she’ll never be a great artist and Meg like she must keep a perfect house all on her own.
Throughout the book, their neighbor, Laurie, becomes a part of the family in a few different ways, firstly as Jo’s best friend. Their relationship was the most complicated and perhaps most torturous. According to an quote from Alcott from 1868, she got quite a number of requests that Laurie and Jo end up together and it seemed to have really irked her.
Anyway, much can be said about the March girls and of Little Women. It was an incredibly cozy story and it was made all the better because of its ties to my family. I always felt like there was no historical-language barrier. Usually, when I first start to read a classic it takes my brain a few pages to adjust to the language, but not so with this one.
I’ve already picked up Jo’s Boys and Little Men and I’m excited to see the lives of Jo and her sisters continue to unfold.