Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Revisiting Books... Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Ah, Little Women. I have posted many, many times before about not having read Good Wives (or, to most people, the second half of Little Women) until I was about 20, long after I'd read Little Women (or, the first part of Little Women) for the first time, and lots of times after that. It is, therefore, still difficult for me to accept some of the things that happen in the second part of the story, and it's hard for me to not want to stop reading when Mr March comes home, just at the point where everything is perfect. Rereading Little Women earlier this month was the first time I read the two books together (or, the first time I read the whole book) and it was a pretty new experience than my usual Little Women reading.

For starters, it took longer. And obviously that's something I expected because, you know, it's twice as long; but that's not why it took longer. Nope, once I got onto the second part, I significantly slowed my reading- I didn't want the things that I now knew happened to happen, and so, the slower I read, the slower they would unfold. I wasn't timing myself or anything, but it probably took me twice as long to read the second half than the first half (although- this was partially down to the fact that I started reading A Short History of Nearly Everything part of the way through as well, which was nigh on unputdownable). And it's not like the second half isn't well written! I love that Meg still gets a look-in even though she's married (much of literature just ignoring or writing off married women) and her domestic episodes are some of the funniest moments of the second part. But. There's just so much sadness, and Laurie gets all unhappy which I don't approve of, and (I'm hoping we all know this by now) Beth dies! Which just isn't on and I can't even cope with it so let's pretend it just doesn't happen, yes?

Because, damn, I love those Little Women. I do. I think I fall in love with them around the bit where they give their lovely Christmas breakfast away to the poor German family that lives in the woods, and my love for them never goes away, which makes their sadnesses in the second part so much harder to bear. And when I say I love them, I obviously don't mean Amy because, you know, annoying and also (SPOILER) Laurie how could you?! I mean, I don't even really think that Jo and Laurie should have gotten married (even though, when Little Women used to end in the middle I definitely imagined them getting married eventually, for young friendship to blossom into love) but Amy?! Seriously?! That girl rubs me up in all the wrong ways, even though she gets much more bearable in the second part, I still can't forgive her for burning Jo's book... (END SPOILER).

I don't know about you, but from pretty much every book I read as a child, I had my favourite characters. My favourite babysitter's club member was Dawn, and my favourite Wakefield twin was Jessica, and my favourite March sister was, without a doubt, Beth. I still love her so much- she has this whole quiet calm thing going on, and you know that just her presence would soothe you and make everything seem right with the world. And I'm pretty sure that she's also Alcott's favourite sister, which may well have influenced my love of her from the very start, because, well, just have a look at this:
"There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully, that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind."
I mean, just, *sigh*, you know? And may I add that that little ditty comes on page THIRTY NINE of my copy, so let's just say, Beth's death? Not entirely unexpected, although still indescribably painful and upsetting. Nowadays when I read Little Women, I definitely identify with and admire Jo a lot more, but my heart and my reading memory is reserved for Beth, and her sweet and shy and, lets face it, wonderful ways. MAN, I love her!

So, to summarise: Beth is awesome, Jo is also awesome, and Little Women is awesome, although the first part will always be more awesome to me, if only because of much exposure to it in my childhood. My continuing love for Little Women isn't based only on nostalgia though- the characters are still as wonderful and as vivid to me as they always were, and even though the second part of the story isn't always to my liking, being able to spend more time in the company of these beloved characters long after my childhood had ended was a really unexpected and lovely treat. I will always love the Marches, and will never have to be convinced much to spend time in their lovely, although at times difficult, little Massachusetts world.

17 comments:

  1. You'd probably lose all respect for me if I told you that I never read Little Women (the partial or the whole) all the way through, so I won't mention that. :)

    No, my mom tried. She begged and bribed and cajoled. But I loathed the movie and couldn't make myself read the book. I bet I'd like it at least a little if I read it today, though.

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    1. You loathed the movie?! But but but Christian Bale! No respect lost though! I just really really love those girls, and I'd like to think that you'd like it if you read it today :)

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  2. This is one of my favorites as well...and I take heat every single time I say that. So many readers talk about how boring, slow and action-less the story is. I want to yell, "Of course it doesn't read like the newest James Patterson!" It's not supposed to, for heaven sake. I cry every time Beth dies and dislike Amy very much...I LOVE Jo and I LOVE Marmee. Time for a re-read of this one I think :)

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    1. Arrrgh, I can't deal with a complaint about how slow the story is! Cause it's all about the characters, duuuuh stupid people- and I LOVE THEM ALL! Also, yay for our matching character loves/hates :) (although I do warm to Amy in the second part, I still can't deal wit Laurie wanting to marry her. At all)

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  3. I have to admit that I've never read Good Wives. I just can't make myself read it, at the end of Little Women everything is so perfect and then...
    No, Louisa May Alcott, there is neither a reason nor a justification to let Beth die, there simply isn't!
    For my part I will just pretend that Little Women ends when Mr March comes home and that's it.

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    1. Oh my gosh, seriously, keep doing that! It broke my heart a little bit when I read Good Wives, for reals! But I would say that even at the end of Little Women, I was basically like 'oh Beth, you're not long for this world, are you?' but I could still pretend she was alive!!

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  4. Your favorite Babysitters' Club member was DAWN?? (that's what I got out of this post)

    (also, I still can't believe LW is broken up into two books for you. this weirds me out)

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    1. Errrr yeah! She's all environmentally friendly and hippy-ish and she *cares* about stuff! Why, who was your favourite Babysitters Club member?

      That really bothers you, huh?! If you look at your copy (I'm assuming you have a copy) I'm sure it's TECHnically in two parts too!

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  5. I have never read Little Woman. I'm pretty sure I had a copy growing up but I never read it. I even had the movie, the one with Christian Bale as Laurie, and I can't remember a thing about it. But you have a lot of "awesomes" in there so maybe I should fix that. Also if it's free to download...

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    1. Just get another copy of the movie and watch it again and again- it gets my seal of approval because Christian Bale actually *is* Laurie.

      Little Women is lovely though! I mean, it's not all car chases and things blowing up, but it is a lovely story about girls! Even if there is a teensy bit too much religion (i.e. there is a bit) for my liking...

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    2. Hehe "not ALL car chases and things blowing up". If there are ANY then I have grossly misunderstood what this book is about.

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  6. I have three sisters and no brothers, so growing up we loved Little Women! We were constantly comparing ourselves to Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

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    1. Awwwww, I love that! I have a sister, and two girl cousins that I'm really close too, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who read Little Women... but anyway, I used to like rank us in age order as to who would be our corresponding characters, and I was Beth, which made me pretty happy :)

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  7. Like you, I've read Little Women a thousand times but haven't got round to Goov Wives yet. I don't want to! I know what happens pretty much and it hurts before I even pick it up!

    I don't really mind about Laurie and Amy though - but then Amy isn't the one that annoys me. I really can't stand Jo, she winds me up like NOTHING ELSE. Everyone praises her ALL THE TIME because she's 'controlling her temper' or something stupid, when she's actually being a little cowbag. But you know, that's okay, because she's 'trying.' Grr.

    I do plan to read this at some point this year though :)

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  8. Is it bad that I didn't even know there was a second half of Little Women?

    Having said that Little Woman is one of the books that's been on my TBR pile for the longest

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  9. I've read Little Women in every stage of life - when I was a kid, hoping to be a Jo when I grew up, in college to 'get back into reading,' and now as an adult reading it to my girls.

    It's inspired me to read other titles, too - most recently "Reel Life" by Jackie Townsend (http://jackietownsend.com) - because the relationships of sisters has become one of my favorite topics to read about.

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  10. The book was absolutely wonderful!! But the introduction was written in very bad taste. The insinuations were offensive and with out just cause!!Had I read the introduction before I purchased the book, I would have chosen another copy. I had purchased it and then read the introduction, so as I write, the pages have been cut out of this book. Louisa May Alcott did not deserve the insinuations from this person.

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