Ok, who doesn’t love this book SO MUCH? 98% of female authors are all, When I was younger I read Little Women and I totally wanted to be Jo March, because hey, she’s quirky and fun, and hilarious and tall and the dead-sexy Laurie falls for her (le sigh…I wouldn’t have turned you down, Laurie) and she’s a successful writer and in the end she gets to run an orphanage of sorts full of romping boys. FUN!
Just in case you lived in a box until you were twenty, and when you emerged no one thrust this book into your hands as an antidote for your missed childhood, Little Women is a series of anecdotal tales concerning the four young misses March: lovely Meg, tomboyish Jo, saintly Beth and fashionable Amy. There’s no real plot, inasmuch as my life or yours has no real plot, but each chapter contains a wee adventure, sort of Little House on the Prairie-style (which you also won’t have read, having grown up in a box). Meg goes abroad with a wealthy friend and learns the shallowness of vanity; Jo cuts off and sells all her hair (her one beauty) to raise money for her wounded war-chaplain father; and something Deeply Tragic happens that you’ll see coming a mile away, because Alcott is about as subtle as a naked man, but which I won’t ruin for you in case…you know…childhood in a box. Also in case you missed that one episode of Friends where Rachel makes Joey read Little Women and he has to put the book in the freezer because he’s afraid of the Deeply Tragic thing.
Now that I’m not nine, and I’m reading this book and…it’s a little preachy, no? All this ‘one ought to bear up under one’s burdens’ and so forth, and Alcott knows it. There’s this one bit where she goes on for four long paragraphs about how one ought to respect one’s elders, because one shall be old one day, and shall desire the respect of the young, etc etc etc until Alcott interrupts herself with ‘Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader has during this little homily).’ Oh Louisa May, I can’t be mad at you even while you hector.
Even though, by today’s plot-driven standards, Little Women is remarkably tame and simple and, let’s face it, boring, it’s also perfectly lovely. I was going to draw an allusion here to chicken soup, which is also tame and simple and boring and sometimes just the thing, but then I started thinking of all those Chicken Soup for the College Soul and Chicken Soup for the Adoptive Mother’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Seasonal Affective Disorder’s Soul, and I couldn’t.
So if you’d like yourselfs some downtime from your sex and violence and heroin-use, if you’re in the mood for some fierce domesticity, reach way in the back of your bookshelf and pull out this dusty old gem.