December 17, 2013
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Review)
Author: Louisa May Alcott
First published: 1868
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Thanks to my helpful friends, who advised me against Middlemarch and Ulysses this December, I ended up reading the sweetest book ever! Well, maybe it was too sweet at times, but I loved it anyway! I've found a gorgeous Gutenberg edition with a lot of beautiful pencil illustrations, which added to the cuteness. All in all, I had a very good time with this novel, and I'll probably re-read it sometime, as it's a perfect comfort read.
As the subtitle hints, the story revolves around four girls, who are very different in their characters and aspirations, in a difficult period of their lives - growing from girls into women. As Alcott made me care for them (well, most of them), I want in this review to discuss them one by one, and there will be tons of spoilers ahead!
I'm starting with my favourite character in the book. What, I hear you exclaim, not Jo?? No, not Jo. Jo is awesome, of course, but Amy is the one whom I really admire. She starts as a spoiled little girl and ends up a graceful lady with a house, enough money and a wonderful husband as a bonus - everything she wished for so hard. She hasn't become a painter, but when she realized she is no genius, she handled it beautifully and applied her artistic taste to things she WAS a genius at: her looks. I really admire her resourcefulness, optimism and patience: she never has all the beautiful things she wants, but she knows how to look best in what she has and does not despair. She has "the general air, the style, the self-possession, the - the - illusion", as Laurie says. Besides, she also has a very nice character, and her understanding of what it means to be a lady goes far beyond good looks. All in all, she has developed greatly as a character, and she was always interesting to read about. I think her match with Laurie is totally suitable, as "she winds one round her finger as softly and prettily as a skein of silk, and makes you feel as if she was doing you a favor all the while", and Laurie IS the one who needs it.
Jo was my favourite through most of the book, but the ending was really disappointing. She had guts to really become something in the world, even the 19th century world. And I think she really had talent, unlike other sisters, who were just good at something. But she didn't pursue her writing career, even when she discovered she can write something serious. I know, staying an old maid seems rather horrible, but her match looks desperate. OK, the professor is good and... em.. unusual, but he is much older and is more of a father than lover to her. OK, I confess I'm just not a fan of such characters, but I was pitying her, because it seems that with her character she has a certain passion in her, which is quite wasted on an older man. It's strange everybody thought that a Laurie kind of husband wouldn't suit her. I think that relationships founded on scorn and joking can be even more rewarding than the ones based on holding hands and blushing. And yes, I do speak from experience :)
She was a pretty nothing from the beginning: some vanity, some good intentions... that's all. Her husband is an even bigger nothing and their match was ridiculous: she just was... eh, persuaded, although I don't believe she really loved him. But surprisingly enough, some good plot development came from this match of two nothings: I really enjoyed her struggles as a beginner housewife and mother. I know how difficult it is to manage a home by yourself and how much patience is needed to make it a happy place to be together with another person. Her difficulties after childbirth were also very moving, and I was happy for her when she learned how to be a good mother and housewife. She couldn't be anything else anyway.
Well, I didn't care for Beth at all, because she was so dull. But her death got me really angry. Now, pardon me if I hurt somebody's religious feelings, but I think her religiousness killed her! Well, fastened this process anyway. She is so meek, she "tries to be willing" to die, and OF COURSE she dies after this. If you try not to wish to live, how is your body to fight the illness? I think it would be better if she thought there was no afterlife or whatever. This may have given her some will to live. As nothing is said about her illness and a doctor never visits her to diagnose it, it seems as though she somehow just secretly decided to die and did. However little I cared for her, this waste makes me ANGRY!
Speaking about the book in general, of course it's outdated and preachy! I was expecting nothing less. But if you try to close your eyes on everything religious and too-good-not-to-cause-nausea, you can see a very engaging life story, with all the feelings and great characters. I stayed up until 4am two nights in a row because I couldn't put it down, and it's the end of the semester! :) I think it put me in a New Year mood more effectively that all the Christmas markets around, although I dig European Christmas markets!
In my book:
It's a must read and a certain classic. Suitable for all ages :)