Monday, August 31, 2009

ON BOOKS ~ Little Women...

MizB asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • Share the title of the book the teaser comes from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

From pg. 28 of LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott (fiction)...

"There, now I'll take off the papers and you'll see a cloud of little ringlets," said Jo, putting down the tongs.

She did take off the papers, but no cloud of ringlets appeared, for the hair came with the papers, and the horrified hair-dresser laid a row of little scorched bundles on the bureau before her victim.

Having fond, but vague, memories of an abridged version of this book as a young girl I decided to re-read it after reading March which is a literary interpretation of the father in Little Women's time away at the Civil War. I realized that I did not remember the details of Little Women and decided I wanted to rediscover the girls.

Part I is a simple, but detailed, story about 4 sisters coming into their own at home in Concord, MA while their beloved minister father is away at war. The plot is fairly uneventful, but I found it interesting because I could relate to memories from my own childhood of putting on plays with my younger brother for my family, suffering through embarrasing moments (such as curling irons gone awry), pining for a future full of things better than we had and wanting desparately to become a writer. These are the things Alcott tells tales about in a way that seems homey and at times makes you wish you had their lives.

I think this is why Little Women is so popular to this day with the pre-teen set, nearing 150 years later. It is written about young girls and their universal struggles, concerns, joys and desires. We all still carry the same emotions while growing up. The tug between family obligations and independence, the difference between friendship and love, heartbreak, grief, pride, jealousy and tenacity. There are lots of moral teachings throughout, but the biggest of them is to honor your family more than even yourself. And that's a pretty important message to convey to teenagers wanting to have nothing to do with their parents.

Part II was written after Part I was published because the public cried out for more and wanted to know what became of these sisters as adults. It is filled with far more grown-up matters such as romance, parenting, finances and travel. It is a delightful desert to follow-up the proper and responsible main course. It has sadness woven into it but in the end the Marches live happily ever after - though not necessarily via the paths Alcott's readers may have wanted.

Alcott did not want to write a book for girls about girls. That was her publisher's idea. She preferred thrillers and "rubbish" to moral stories. But Little Women was the first of its kind - feeding a young female audience hungry to read about people they could relate to. It also had massive appeal because it was uncharacteristically set in New England rather than foreign lands or big cities at home. But in the end, a story about an unwealthy family of 4 sisters living in the countryside of New England was successful because the author wrote what she knew - her family.

The book is very much autobiographical and therefore the honesty and directness gives it its charm. Pretty Meg following the path of marriage and motherhood, fiery Jo choosing writing and adventure with the boys over high society, angelic Beth taking care of the homestead, and prissy Amy dreaming of balls and riches as well as creating art. Simple stories about simple girls in a challenging time at the turning point of their development into women. An American classic for young girls - and a nice re-read for this adult.

15 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting tidbit about Alcott's preferences for writing!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I agree with Jill, I like the tidbits. You know, I never read this book. I was raised in a cave you see! I do have it loaded on my Kindle though. I think one of my goals for 2010 is to dedicate an entire month to reading nothing but classics. Hell, with my background, I could do two or three months of that. Great review Molly!

Susan said...

Oh, I love Little Women! The book and the movies. I always watch the Winona Ryder one while I'm decorating the Christmas tree and I always cry when Beth dies.

I love the very first sentence.

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

I'm with Susan. I love both the book and the Winona Ryder movie. And I cry too. We must be twins. I fell in love with this book in my preteen years and have read it several times since then, including last year. Now it's become a personal tradiition.

stacybuckeye said...

I listened to this a few years ago and enjoyed it. When the play came to Cleveland I made my husband take me. Needless to say, I liked it more than he did. It was good to seethe girls come to life on stage (not in the Hollywood way).

kaye said...

I love this quote you selected and your review was great. Little Women is a story that will always be entertaining. I just love it. Have you ever read "Jo's Boys"? It's about Jo when she's grown and running a school for boys. It was good too.

Susan B. Evans said...

I've never read Little Women, though I purchased a copy earlier this year - hopefully I'll get to it soon :) Great teaser this week! My teaser accompanies a giveaway on my blog this week.

Bluestocking said...

This was my favorite scene in Little Women. Here is mine

Staci said...

You make a great argument for re-reading this one!! I read is so long ago that I've forgotten that happened!! Great teaser!

Amy Reads Good Books said...

I remember that scene! Ah, one of my favorite books!

JoAnn said...

My daughter just finished reading this. I loved it when I was growing up and remember that scene...perhaps it's time for a reread!

Scobberlotcher said...

This book is one of my all-time favorites. You gave me a smile by excerpting some of it today. :)

Catherine @ The Blonde Diaries said...

A great assessment of the book! I am still working on mine and hope to finish it this weekend.

I so remember that part of the book and just laughing out loud. I could only imagine trying to do my hair that way and I know I would burn it off too. I couldn't figure out why Meg had Jo, the tomboy, doing Meg's hair.

Wanda said...

So many personal memories get wrapped up with this book -- four girls at my home too, this is a book all of us loved! We even used to play Little Women. I think it's just about time for my youngest daughter to enjoy this one. Great review Molly, thanks!

Michael said...

Jemima over at The Reading Journey visited Alcott's house - her interesting post is here.