“it’s wicked to throw away so many good gifts because you can’t have the one you want.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868)
Little Women is a literary classic that has been on the outskirts of my reading list for some time but I finally finished reading it yesterday thanks to The Girl Gang Book Club– an online book club that allows book-lovers to interact and discuss a selected book each month via the Twittersphere.
Inspired in parts by Alcott’s own life, the book follows the lives of the March family and the coming of age of four sisters. Meg is the eldest and eager to please, Jo is a tomboy and aspiring writer, Amy is artistic and ladylike, and Beth is shy and musical. Each sister has their own identity which comes with their faults as well as their virtues. As they grow up, they learn the consequences of indulging their weaknesses and the rewards that arrive when their virtues guide them. With such distinct and vibrant personalities, it’s no surprise readers find themselves identifying with one character more than any other. Jo was that character for me. Boisterous, loyal and ahead of her time, she has no interest in the delicacies of life. She ignores convention and values her independence but is fiercely protective of those closest to her. Her determination to pursue her talent for writing was perhaps another reason I was drawn to her fiery character.
The March family are poor but their strong bonds and close relationships provide them with comfort and happiness. At times the sisters despair of this but as they grow they come to appreciate the things in life that can’t be bought. The book has an obvious moral thread running through it as well as a strong authorial presence. I have to admit it irritated me slightly in the beginning, recently having read books in which the authors have been almost invisible, but in children’s stories authors often have a more conspiratorial relationship with the reader and as I got used to the style I noticed it less and less.
An episode of the TV show Friends let me in on two big events years before I picked up the book. Despite knowing to some extent how things would play out I couldn’t help hoping that Beth would get better and I still found myself routing for Laurie and Jo. I felt that their other love interests weren’t half as satisfying in comparison.
Little Women opens up a world in which family, friendship and compassion flourish. It was nice to inhabit the March’s world for a while.