Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
little.JPG

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868).
How can you review a book on its 150th anniversary that 90% of your female friends read when they were girls and almost none of your male friends would have been caught dead reading? I am guessing that most of the men here will skip this review and most of the women will look at it just to see if I agree with their memories of a childhood favorite book. This is a thankless task.

Little Women was my wife’s favorite book. Growing up in a family of seven sisters (and no boys), she saw herself in its story of the four March sisters. Unfortunately, she turned out to be Beth. I recall coming home one day when Cecilia was bedridden and seeing that our twelve-year-old niece was lying next to her in bed and reading Little Women out loud. It was as much a comfort at the end of life as it had been an inspiration at the beginning.

Another problem with reviewing Little Women is that it was explicitly written for girls. Alcott was popular writer of stories when she was approached by a publisher to write a book to fill the gap in its catalog for girls book. What became the most successful novel of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods written by a veteran of the war was never written for someone like me.

This review will be posted in multiple parts.
 
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Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Part 2:

The novel begins after the start of the Civil War and ends during the early years of Reconstruction. While this a domestic drama, it is one which gains its power from the absence of men. We see a society of women, often unmediated by interactions with men, created by the war's exactions. The central male character in the book, the father of the Little Women, is a looming moral presence in the book, but almost entirely absent physically as he is serving in the army as a chaplain.

The wartime deprivation of men allows the Little Women to explore their relations with each other. I was thinking of the Bechdel Test, which looks at how long women in a fictional work talk to each other without mentioning men, while read the novel. Little Women passes the test as the four March sisters are constantly in conversation about their own lives. Reading this girls' novel at 60 made me understand its popularity. It is a girls' world.
 
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Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Part 3:

Men are a presence in the first half of the book, but mostly they are present in absence. For example, the mother of the four sisters recounts this incident when she comes home from work:

“As I sat cutting out blue flannel jackets today at the rooms, I felt very anxious about Father, and thought how lonely and helpless we should be, if anything happened to him. It was not a wise thing to do, but I kept on worrying till an old man came in with an order for some clothes. He sat down near me, and I began to talk to him, for he looked poor and tired and anxious. “‘Have you sons in the army?’ I asked, for the note he brought was not to me.” “‘Yes, ma’am. I had four, but two were killed, one is a prisoner, and I’m going to the other, who is very sick in a Washington hospital.’ he answered quietly.” “‘You have done a great deal for your country, sir,’ I said, feeling respect now, instead of pity.” “‘Not a mite more than I ought, ma’am. I’d go myself, if I was any use. As I ain’t, I give my boys, and give ’em free.’” “He spoke so cheerfully, looked so sincere, and seemed so glad to give his all, that I was ashamed of myself. I’d given one man and thought it too much, while he gave four without grudging them. I had all my girls to comfort me at home, and his last
son was waiting, miles away, to say goodbye to him, perhaps!

 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Conclusion:

The book was really quite an enjoyable read, and surprisingly modern in its descriptions of the interior lives of girls and young women. Alcott wrote it quickly and for money, but she infused it with reflections on her own life as a girl growing up more than a decade before the war and with her own brief, but nearly deadly, experiences as an army nurse. After reading it, I was not at all surprised to have women friends tell me that they had read it several times when they were young and still return to it in middle age. I can see why it was comforting for my wife to have it read to her by a niece who was the age of the Little Women during Cecilia's own last days.
 
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Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Conclusion:

The book was really quite an enjoyable read, and surprisingly modern in its descriptions of the interior lives of girls and young women. Alcott wrote it quickly and for money, but she infused it with reflections on her own life as a girl growing up more than a decade before the war and with her own brief, but nearly deadly, experiences as an army nurse. After reading it, I was not at all surprised to have women friends tell me that they had read it several times when they were young and still return to it in middle age. I can see why it was comforting for my wife to have it read to her by a niece who was the age of the Little Women during her own last days.
To write "quickly and for the money" is the goal of all writers. How poor the world's literature would be if we excluded all the works written "quickly and for the money."
 

MaryDee

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 23, 2014
Pat, your photo shows the cover of the very ragged edition I own, which my parents bought me in 1944 when I was eight.

There have been several articles recently because of the 150th anniversary.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/books/little-women-alcott-anniversary.html

Two different reviews of a recent book on Little Women:
https://freebeacon.com/culture/review-meg-jo-beth-amy-by-anne-boyd-rioux/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/ente...869fe70a721_story.html?utm_term=.eeb7c84acd50

Another movie version is coming out; there was a miniseries (which I rather liked) on public TV last spring, and supposedly a graphic novel is coming out.
 

5fish

Captain
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Location
Central Florida
A colorized picture of Ms. Alcott...

s-l300.jpg


Black and white...

louisa_alcott23.jpg


Here is a story about her sister... May... her story has a sad ending...

Snippet...

May Alcott Nieriker, sister of Louisa May Alcott, was a devoted artist, but was never became famous. At least her life was more exciting than her fictional counterpart, Amy, in Little Women.

https://teacupsandtyrants.com/2018/03/25/an-ambitious-aspiring-artist-may-alcott/




 
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