Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

1938Wow, I did not expect my relationship with this story to grow quite so complicated. I thought I’d open the book, get completely engrossed, berate myself for not reading as a child, and finish in nearly one or two sittings. Did. Not. Happen. As I write this, I still have not finished the beast.

I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly why Little Women has become my bookish Everest. After chatting with the Litwits this Sunday, I think it might have something to do with not reading as a younger girl. Many said their love of the novel is born out of the nostalgia that comes with Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy’s story. Since time travel isn’t a thing yet, not much I can do in that department.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty. Alcott’s novel is really long – much longer than I had anticipated. Plus, I have the Norton Critical Edition with lots of tiny font which just naturally slows down the process. For me, the pacing was just all over the place. The first half was steady, but dull. The second a roller coaster – slow uphill battles followed by swishing dives as the plot took its twists and turns. The flow bothered me.

Marmee was ultimately another annoyance. Sadly. I felt like her entire role was preachy-ass tool. Never good. As for all the preaching, it’s hard to sit through as an adult woman living in the 21st Century. Many of the morals being taught to the young ladies are antiquated and outdated – all of which can be overlooked if done properly and not nearly so much. But to feel like the purpose of 50% of the novel is to teach girls to be good housewives starts to irritate fairly quickly.

Obviously, Little Women has some fantastic elements as well. The sisters immediately come to mind. They are fantastically drawn characters – able to resemble each other yet be their own individual person. Jo has always been a great favorite for all bookish ladies (I did love the movie as a child!). I imagine that Jo most closely resembles Alcott sense this is the character everyone identifies with the most. And each girl while trying to be so good and please her parents often falls into periods of terribly selfish behavior which was a breath of fresh air.

I also love that Alcott was not afraid to kill Beth or have Jo refuse Laurie’s proposal. Unexpected twists such as these irk many readers, but keep the story fresh and interesting. How boring if everything had happened all happily tied up with a neat little pink bow. Yuck. I’m glad Alcott had some guts.

In reading some of the criticism, I learned that Alcott herself was not a fan of this book calling it “dull”. Ha! I’m on her side. She didn’t even like girls or stories about girls. Bless her. From now on I think I’ll stick to more factual reads on Alcott herself and skip the fiction. She seems like quite a fascinating person and someone I might be able to relate to immensely!

P.S. I promise to finish the novel. I’ve only got 60 pages left, but didn’t feel that the book’s finale would ultimately change my opinion. After all, I already know how the damn thing ends. Feel free to tell me why you love or don’t love Little Women in the comments! I’d love to hear your personal stories.

P.P.S. I finished…bleh.