Fiction — print. Grosset & Dunlap, 1999. First published 1880. 643 pgs. Gift.
In 1999, my mom gifted me a beautiful, illustrated hardback copy of one of her favorite childhood novels – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I thought for sure this read for Reading Buddies would be a reread for me as I distinctly remember turning the pages and looking at the pretty illustrations by Louis Janbor. Now, I know that is about all I did because I was completely unfamiliar with the Marsh sisters when I started this book late last month. (Other than, of course, that Jo is a tomboy and bookworm, and my mother wanted me to be just like her.)
Little Women was originally published as two separate novels: Little Women, which I will talk about today, in 1868 and Good Wives in 1869. The two were first combined into one piece of work titled Little Women in 1880.
Part One introduces readers to Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy Marsh – four sisters living with their mother, Marmee, and servant, Hannah, in Massachusetts during the American Civil War. The girls (minus Amy) must work outside their home in order to help out Marmee and their father, Mr. March, who is a chaplain in the Union Army and away fighting in the war. An introduction and, later, friendship with the grandson of their neighbor named Laurie dominates most of part one. But there is also the issue of each girls’ folly – vanity, rashness – that they must confront during this difficult time.
It’s been a little over two years since I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, yet I could not help but draw parallels between her novel and Alcott’s classic. A bit of North vs. South, I guess. The Marsh sisters spend much of Part One whining about the loss of the family’s money and how poor they have become. Scarlett O’Hara did much of the same, if memory serves me correctly, but I felt more pity for her than for the Mash sisters. I almost wanted to slap the, to be brutally honest, because I just could not stand their complaining for one moment longer, particularly when Marmee forced them to give up their large breakfast spread to a family with no food. They may not have the latest fashions, but at least they have food and did not watch their city burn to the ground.
The action in Gone With the Wind, despite lengthy passages about a particular green dress, managed to sweep me away with the story. In comparison, not much appears to happen in Part One of Little Women. There are sicknesses and balls and pranks and mean-spiritedness amongst sisters, but I cannot help but feel like I have caught brief moments in the life of these four sisters. Rather than be immersed, I have merely dipped my toes into this tale. A hard feeling to have when one is 307 pages into a book!
I am still hopeful about part two and would like to have it read by August 14 so I do not have to lug this 643-paged chunkster on the plane with me. I have the book downloaded on my iPad, but I’d really like to finish out the novel with my printed copy simply because the illustrations are so beautiful.
- BookBath (full book)
- Rebecca Reads (full book)
- A Room of One’s Own (full book)
- The Zen Leaf (full book)
Hosted by Erin of Erin Reads, Reading Buddies was born out of Erin’s 2011 reading goal of tackling books on her TBR list. She put out a call to find out if anyone was interested in reading some of the same books along with her. Since she and I shared several books between our two lists, I jumped at the chance to cross books of my TBR list and read along with her. Little Women is the selections for August. September’s selection is Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.