Fiction — print. Grosset & Dunlap, 1999. First published 1880. 643 pgs. Gift.
Surprisingly, it took me less time to read part two than part one. The second part of this novel was previously published as Good Wives and begins with Meg’s marriage. The four Marsh sisters are spreading out and seemingly going their separate ways. Meg is now a married woman while Amy is now traveling the globe with Aunt March. Beth is mostly confined to her home due to her illness in part one, but Jo is attempting to both be there for her and get her manuscripts published.
I wonder how many people build up an affinity for Jo? She’s my mom’s favorite character; she’s my favorite character. And some of the reviews for the novel I perused seem to all point towards Jo being their favorite character. Is it because she is the most “contemporary” of the four sisters? Or because she does the opposite of Alcott’s tells is us correct female behavior.
But I cannot say that this is a favorite novel. When Jo brings her manuscript to Mr. Dashwood, he tells her that “People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. Morals don’t sell nowaways” (pg. 454). The narrator (Alcott) interjects this “was not quite a correct statement, by the way” (pg. 454). A book does not have to amusing to make me like it; I do occasionally enjoy books with a good moral. But I do not enjoy being preached at, and this is all Alcott’s classic novel seems to do for me.
Stressing the prime female qualities of the era (sweet, mild, submissive), readers are supposed to see why girls like Beth make for better wives (or people, in general) than clumsy, bold Jo. Girls like Beth and Meg are to be cherished while girls like Jo are destined to be unhappy and ruin their own lives. Or so the ending of this novel tells me.
This mostly came about because I did not like the relationship between Laurie and Amy. He was so distraught and upset after Jo spurned his advances, and I felt quite bad for him. But then he was reunited with Amy and proceeded to marry her. Was he looking for someone completely opposite from Jo? Possibly, but I couldn’t help but think that the two were not right for one another in any way, shape, or form. My feelings on Laurie, whom I generally liked throughout the novel, did a completely 180. I ended the book hating him!
But don’t worry about Jo being alone. Life works out neatly for these ladies! Jo develops a relationship with a professor, whom we are supposed to believe is a better match for her. A brief struggle with motherhood is resolved to create the image of a perfect mother and wife in Meg.
*end of spoilers*
I understand that I am reading an old text with a contemporary mindset, and I think it largely affected my liking of the book. If I rated books here, I would give it three stars. I didn’t connect with Alcott’s novel the way I hoped I would but there were bits and pieces of it that I liked. I also can’t help but wonder how I would have felt about the novel had I read it at a younger age. Most people I know who have read this book and loved it seem to have done so when they were younger.
- BookBath (full book)
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- 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.