Little Women – Revisiting a classic; a comfort read
Inspired by Emmalita’s post earlier last month, I selected this popular classic as it covers the squares This Old Thing, Throwback Thursday, The Book Was Better, The First of a Series and Birthday! (thank you, Rochelle, this is an excellent choice). I’m using this for the “Birthday!” square. A book I have read at least three-four times in its entirety, revisiting it was a pleasure.
A very popular book featuring a heartwarming journey into the lives, trials and tribulations of four daughters who live in semi-rural America in the early-late 1860s (they aren’t farmers nor land owners, it wasn’t clear where the story is based). I had assumed the East coast while reading it, Wiki tells me it is Massachusetts.
I may not be wrong in assuming nearly everyone in our reading group here must have read this; it is a literary classic touted for its “All American coming-of-age” narrative. Interestingly, a large section of the readers identity themselves with Jo March, the second sister who is not-so-loosely based on the life of author Louisa May Alcott herself. All of the characters have been well-painted, but it is clear from the things they hold dear, the choices they make, and the actions they perform that Alcott held a clear dislike for her own youngest sister (Amy, in the book), or at least the principles held by girls who loved to look pretty and cared more about their own comfort and were unapologetic about it.
As I read along, my dislike for Amy did not abate, despite her not being a mean or thoughtless person, and possessing the heart of an artist and the soul of one who likes luxuries. We see Jo become a successful writer, Meg married, Amy in Europe and the one event that broke all of our hearts and we kept the book inside the freezer when that happened.
For my review I’d like to focus on the author herself, seeing as she wrote this as a semi-autobiographical account of her life as an author, an abolitionist and an early feminist.
Some very interesting facts are now available about her – the last one will shock you!
- Her family moved 22 times in 30 years. One of their homes “Hillside” was sold to Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the early influencers of Alcott’s literary education.
- Her earliest stories were written for the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson (she worked as a governess/teacher to earn for the family).
- She briefly worked as a nurse in DC, when she contracted typhoid and nearly died. During this experience she observed and wrote humorous accounts about hospital mismanagement in the anti-slavery paper “Commonwealth”.
- She wrote sensational and romantic (not the love kind) novels under the penname A. M. Barnard; her lead characters were strong and smart individuals.
- She explained her spinsterhood thus -“I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body … because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.”
- Gaining fame after Little Women was published, she remained a member of the introverts’ club, often pretending to be a servant when fans visited at her home (I like her more for this).
- Along with Elizabeth Stoddard, Rebecca Harding Davis, Anne Moncure Crane, and a few others, Alcott was part of a group of female authors during the Gilded Age, who addressed women’s issues in a modern and candid manner. So she had a group of women author friends who wrote about the “signs of the times”!
- She was often sick during her later years – largely due to the mercury poisoning in the treatment for the typhoid contracted earlier, with later research showing that it might have been autoimmune disease.
However – a detailed perusal at her photos and the tell-tale rash on her cheeks indicate it was LUPUS (dun dun dunnn), pre-emptively disproving Dr. House.
This book has been filmed so often – a well-watched adaptation remains the one with Susan Sarandon as Marmee and Winona Ryder as Jo March, a perfect casting according to most (incl. me). PBS Masterpiece made an adaptation with Angela Lansbury as Aunt March & Emily Watson as Marmee and a 1933 movie cast Katharine Hepburn as Jo March. The latest one released a couple of days ago on Sep 28 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Women_(2018_film), with Lea Thompson as Marmee, and is set in a modern setting.
This book is widely popular all over the world and very well translated into several languages, Marathi being one (an Indian language); an Indian TV series adaptation to the same is available on a prominent channel now!
A sweet book, a great read and a comfort even so many years later, this is a firm classic.