Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Note: I actually wrote this review last week and then left it unfinished it without even publishing it. Then I promptly convinced myself that I had, indeed, published it. Whoops. Here it is, finally! 

Little Women is one of the most precious, beautiful books I have encountered. It's the perfect book for winter nights by the fireplace, eating Santa's cookies. (Not that I did this, but I wish I had.) This book is the comfort food of books, the warm fuzzy blanket of classics.

But I'm sure many of you already know this, so I'll just jump into my own personal experience with it.

One of my least favorite things a novel can have is didacticism. Actually, I usually despise it. If an author wants to whack her readers over the head with a particular message, then maybe she should write non-fiction. Just saying. A novel, in my mind, is supposed to give the reader an opportunity to find his or her own truth, not persuade the reader of one specific truth.

Anyway, I had a love/hate (mostly love) relationship with the didacticism in Little Women. I mean, let's be honest with ourselves, the book is one of the most didactic classics I have ever read. There's a moral lesson on practically every page.

Part of me was against this. But a bigger part of me didn't seem to mind. Probably because Little Women isn't completely a novel; it sort of is non-fiction. (I have no idea how much of it is true to life, but I know it was at least based on Alcott's life and family.) I think it was also because I didn't get the feeling that Alcott was trying to change my mind or my behavior, or really anything about me. I didn't feel like I was getting the literary wrist slap and "you should do better!" speech. It was more like Alcott was sharing her own reflection on things she (or her sisters) had learned the hard way. She wasn't saying, "You should be better"; she was saying, "I should have been better, and I hope I will be in the future." And maybe that's corny or silly or old-fashioned, but I can definitely relate. I think most of us can.

Speaking of relating, I found this book especially relate-able because I'm at the same stage in life that the March sisters are going through. I especially enjoyed the chapters about Meg's married life, since I'm barely married myself. I can relate to Meg wanting to be a perfect wife (even though I haven't yet tried making jelly).

I've heard countless numbers of people comment on how wrong it was for Amy to end up with Laurie, when it's so very obvious that Laurie was meant for Jo! Well, now that I have finally read the book I have to say I disagree with this well-meaning intention for Jo. I think Jo was much better off with her professor, and Laurie was much better off with Amy. The truth is, I've had sort of a similar experience to Jo's, where I simply could not think romantically about someone, ever (even though he thought romantically about me). So I can understand. And also, isn't it obvious that Jo and Laurie, if they did marry each other, would only spend the rest of their lives driving each other up the wall?

I do sort of wish I had read this book earlier in my life. I tried to read it when I was about 12, but apparently that was too young. I thought it was boring. (Now I wish I could exclaim to my 12-year-old self, "Boring?! You don't know what boring is!") I can only hope that someday, if I have daughters, they will listen to me when I beg them to read this book.

Well, if they don't, I'll just snuggle up by myself and read it every Christmas. Because that's how special this book is.


  1. Such a lovely post. I want to highlight ALL the lines here. :)

  2. I noticed you have Middlemarch on your classics club list. It's a great book, but George Eliot is very didactic... just a warning! :)

    1. Thank you, I really don't know anything about Eliot or Middlemarch (which, I suppose, is why I decided to read it). I think I'm going to have to get used to didacticism when it comes to 19th-century lit...my mindset is too modern, I think...