Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg’s joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo’s struggle to become a writer, Beth’s tragedy, and Amy’s artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. Based on Louise May Alcott’s childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.
CLASSICS TIME! You heard right – I’m reviewing a reeeeeal oldie. But this IS my first time reading this book and I DID read it for a class called Studies in Children’s and YA Literature, so honestly it seemed like a good thing to do. Also, I had to read this in like two days I deserve this. ANYWAYS! Let’s get this show on the road! I apparently have a really inflammatory opinion about the end of this book, according to my classmates, so this should be FUN.
This is usually where I put a summary of the book, but the blurb (which I stole from Amazon this time, not Goodreads) is pretty self explanatory. What’s most important to me is that it talks about how there are two parts to this book. The blurb calls them I and II. I call them Part I: Where Every Chapter is a Morality Story and Part II: The Bit Where Life Gets REAL. With just Part I, this book gets maybe 2, 2 1/2 stars for morality inducing boredom. With Part II? I might never re-read it, but PLOT TWIST OF THE CENTURY, ALCOTT, BRAVO.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Part I, as I continue to say is … cute. Each sister has one negative quality that their mother, Marmee, has to teach them how to control. It’s all “Be less material, Meg” and “Be less temperamental, Jo” and “Be less spoiled, Amy” and “Be less shy, Beth.” I didn’t get annoyed to the point of wanting to hurl my Kindle across the room (which I’ve done before with morality books), but it got repetitive and boring and I really just wanted something to happen. All together, the themes were quite good and I certainly applaud Alcott for several, radical for the times decisions that she made about the girls’ lives, both here and in Part II.
But then came the romance between Meg and John. I cried. I cried hard. 1800S INSTA-LOVE! I cried. THAT’S A THING THAT’S A THING. I knew much of the later book would revolve around Jo, Amy and Beth’s marriages, so seeing this horribleness made me worried, fast. I couldn’t stand Meg and John’s “romance,” let alone three more. (This was my first time reading it, people who’ve read this before and think I had trouble with math/facts. SHH about Beth.)
But THEN came Part II, and all the reality it brought with it. Suddenly, the girls weren’t just learning cute little life lessons. They were learning life facts, and learning them hard. They were learning them with whiplash. All the radical ideas that Alcott had hinted at in the beginning came out in force. (I’m an English major, we analyzed this, SHH.) But the biggest part for me was THE BIGGEST SHIPPING PLOT TWIST IN ALL OF TIME. Like, I’m not a big proponent of “all writers should read the classics,” but I wanted to buy millions of copies of this book and chuck them at the heads of every writer who has ever written a cliched love triangle ever. I am completely and utterly behind what happened, and it made the book really shine and stand out for me. Right at that moment, the book went from being a cute how to for kids to a real book about life and love and sadness and reality. Reality that is still reality, never mind the historical setting.
At the end of the day, I certainly liked this book. This is one classic that I actually recommend for people to read if they have the urge. There really is a girl for everyone to relate to in this book, no matter their age, and I find that extremely important. I almost wish I had read this as a kid, just to see what I would understand now that I didn’t understand then. Little Women is that kind of a book.