Little Women: Discovering a Childhood Classic in Adulthood

littlewomenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published 1868 by Roberts Brothers
Classic/Young Adult
Format: e-book; 560 pages
Also From This Author: Little MenJo’s Boys
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 5/5

I have seriously been slacking on my book reviews. I finished Little Women weeks ago and I’m finally forcing myself to type out my thoughts. But rest assured, I loved every minute of this book.

I am still surprised at myself for not having read this book when I was a child, especially because it is right up my alley. Little Women is the type of book that makes me want to have daughters one day, so we can read it together and gush over our favorite moments.  Although I felt oddly guilty at the fact that I didn’t read this book sooner, I did already know the story because I grew up watching the 1994 film version with Winona Rider and Christian Bale. Ilittlewomenmovie still really love this movie, but I am so glad I finally read the novel because it helped redeem some characters and plot lines for me, specifically Amy March, who I had always regarded as the bratty younger sister who just never matures. But she does mature! The movie just doesn’t elaborate on it. So, moral is: always read the book! Even if you read it afterwards :)

My absolute favorite part of this novel was the relationship between the March sisters. They seemed so real despite the fact that they were ideal relationships. They laughed together, cried together; they fought and they made up; they made sacrifices for each other and they took care of one another. You could see so much love that it really encourages you to love your own family a bit more. So many times during this novel I wished I could have hugged my siblings!

Another aspect of this book that really made an impression on me was the role of Marmee. She’s more than just a mother; she’s also a friend to the March sisters and she’s their guide in every area of life. I loved how much wisdom she showed to the girls, wisdom that I definitely benefited from myself. One of my favorite scenes of Little Women is when Marmee gave Meg some advice about nurturing and caring for her new marriage:

“Guard against the little piques, misunderstandings, and hasty words that often pave the way for bitter sorrow and regret.”

I probably related the most to Meg, the eldest sister and the one who first realized that what she needed in life was not what she had always wanted:

She had not yet learned to know how rich she was in the blessings which alone can make life happy.

I loved the gentleness of Beth, always caring and unselfish. She seems like the least developed of the March sisters, but really she holds them all together:

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.

Amy, Amy, Amy… Like I said before, I used to get extremely aggravated by her brattiness because that’s mostly what the 1994 film version portrayed. But she’s just a typical baby sister who still has to grow out of her selfishness and immaturity, just like we all (hopefully) do. We see less of these traits in Meg, Jo, and Beth because they are already relatively grown up when the novel starts. However, I do love the later chapters that focus on Amy’s growing up because we get to see things from her POV and it’s in those chapters that I realized how much Amy does care about those around her. And for those of you who still ship Jo and Laurie, let me just say that Louisa May Alcott got it right. Amy is by far the much better match for Laurie, and it’s because of her that he finally stopped being lazy and mopey. And this quote from Amy regarding marrying Laurie is what really redeemed her character for me:

“How delightful it is to be able to help others, isn’t it? That was always one of my dreams, to have the power of giving freely, and thanks to you, the dream has come true.”

And of course there’s our heroine, Jo, who helps us all realize that we can attain our dreams with lots of hope and hard work, and who, like me, forgets and remembers this beautiful thought:

“I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!”

littlewomenmovie2Little Women (1994)

I have always loved this movie! I used to watch it with googly eyes when I was younger (I don’t have googly eyes now, of course…). It’s one of those movies I could watch every day and that has those heart-touching scenes that never fail to make me cry (like when Beth gets her piano! Bravo Claire Danes on bringing out the tears from me). And although I am probably one of the few consistent shippers of Jo and Professor Bhaer, I have always loved them together. That scene at the end is one of my favorites :)

Pros: the acting! All of the locations and costumes, staying relatively true to the original story.

Cons: cutting out some of my favorite character developments (but it’s understandable), like Amy’s maturity and the early relationship between Meg and Mr. Brooke (which I really gushed over in the book).

For those of you who have read (or watched) Little Women, what were some of your favorite moments? How do you feel about Amy and  the “love square” between her, Jo, Laurie, and Professor Bhaer?

12 thoughts on “Little Women: Discovering a Childhood Classic in Adulthood

  1. I loved this book when I was younger, but I’ve always been annoyed that Jo didn’t end up with Laurie. You’ll never convince me that Amy was the better match for him! ;)

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  3. This is one of my favorite books, and I agree, I love the movie. As for shipping Jo and Laurie, I agree with you! Have you read anything else by Alcott? I also really love Eight Cousins by her.

  4. I think Professor Bhaer was exactly right for Jo. He’s more intellectual than Laurie, and encourages her. I think Laurie is great — as a friend & brother, but he encourages her wildness and thrives on irritating her. (A good thing!) Bhaer brings out the side of her that few see. Also, the 1994 movie is my favorite movie, ever. I watch it every Christmas. xx Will you read Little Men & Jo’s Boys? (Oh, just noticed above that you’re starting Little Men.) :)

    • Yay! Another reader who likes Professor Bhaer! :)

      Little Women is the perfect Christmas movie, but in general it’s a great film to watch at any time!

      And yes, I have started reading Little Men and hope to finish it this summer–I’m traveling a lot so that gives me plenty of reading-in-the-car time!

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  6. Little Women Part 1 is my favourite book – hard to pin down favourite moments but will give it a go :)
    * the girls giving away their Christmas breakfast to a poorer family (and receiving an unexpected surprise breakfast from neighbour Laurie)
    * Jo and Laurie dancing in the hallway
    * Jo visiting Laurie when he was sick – and Mr Laurence’s overhearing what she says about him
    * Meg’s confrontation with Aunt March, telling her she’ll marry for love not money
    * Marmee’s note of encouragement to Jo, on how she’s noticed Jo’s efforts to control her temper
    * Jo getting her first story published, and sharing the secret with Laurie
    * the dinner party disaster of Jo’s, and how everybody tries hard to eat it (does anyone else feel that Bridget Jones’ Diary poached this scene…?)
    * when Laurie tells Jo that he’s sent for her mother to come home to nurse Beth
    * the moment Meg presents John Brooke with that great coat, after swallowing her pride and repenting of having reproached him for his poverty

    I married my best friend (and loving it!!) so I admit it is incredibly difficult for me not to ship Jo and Laurie… Or at least, Jo and Laurie in Part 1 (Part 2 Laurie seems an entirely different character to me – how does the adventurous generous boy who hates “fuss and feathers” in Part 1 become the flirtatious fashionable dandy who takes his education and money for granted in Part 2?!). I think it would have been a stellar match, had Laurie followed more consistently the trajectory his character seemed to be heading in, and grown up into a generous, kind and considerate man who pursued Jo March despite her refusal, and shown himself to be a man of great character as well as passion.

    • Louisa May Alcott did it on purpose since her audience and publishers insisted on her marrying Jo off which she didn’t want to do at all as she was a representation of Louisa herself. Thus she agreed to marry Jo off, but not to Laurie as she thought it ridiculous that all anyone cared about was the character getting married. There is a copy of a letter she wrote in a journal about it.

      I agree with you with you completely though and found this because I searched asking how the boy that “didn’t care for fuss and feathers” ends up marrying Amy. In part 2 Laurie seems like a completely different person, but with the background I think it makes sense why.

  7. Yes Amy is FAR more likely in the book (near the end), than in the movie. I also did not read this as a child, though it wasn’t really standard fare (sadly) for boys in my day. But now a true treasure and one I’ll have to reread someday. Nice review. My review:

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