I was so excited when I found Little Women in the smooth-reading pool at DP. I love this book! Sometime in my late teens, I lost count of how many times I had read it. When I saw that this edition included a lot of illustrations, I was even more excited. The versions I read as a child and young adult had only a few illustrations, and it’s always fun to see how artists interpret stories. I’ll be looking for the e-book release of the story, so I can see the illustrations.
I love this book because I am Jo and Jo is me. I’m the middle child of eight, surrounded by four brothers. I’m a bit of a klutz, I wanted to be an author, I was socially inept, and who wouldn’t want to be loved by the handsome (rich!) boy next door? When things were going badly for me, or when my brothers had been their usual insufferable selves, I would retreat to Jo’s attic in my mind, and re-read Little Women. I found refuge, consolation, and wisdom in the pages of this story.
The characters in the story are based on Louisa May Alcott, her sisters, and their lives. To me, the characters are real and vivid. Perhaps because I have so many siblings, I can see that it’s entirely possible for four sisters to have totally different personalities. I completely understand Jo’s frustration when Amy is being particularly supercilious or mean. I understand how Meg can make a complete and total disaster of cooking dinner, and be teased about it at the same time as the sisters pitch in to help clean up the mess—a real-life experience for my oldest sister and me. I know why Beth is shy and doesn’t speak up much. Jo’s frustrations and anger about the world changing rapidly around her mirrored my own feelings as a teenager who had no control over circumstances around me. Amy’s desperation to be considered socially acceptable is the same desire young women feel in today’s world, although we don’t trade pickled limes in order to be one of the gang.
There are some very funny moments (for instance, when the set collapses during one of the stage shows written by Jo, or when Aunt March’s parrot talks to Laurie), and some very sad moments which I won’t specify to avoid spoiling the story for new readers. The moralizing can be a little heavy-handed, although for the time that the book was written, it would have been fairly normal. Some modern readers will be clueless about the references to Pilgrim’s Progress; perhaps they can use those references as an opportunity to learn even more about the world the little women lived in. The moral truths in the story can easily be found, and are as applicable today as they were in the 1800s.
If I were a young lady today, looking for an engrossing story that could tear me away from the world of tweets, emails, youtube, and facebook, I would try this book. I hope that many new readers will discover the joy of reading Little Women when it goes to Project Gutenburg. Maybe some mothers and daughters will read it together. Grandmothers could read the story to granddaughters, thereby cementing a bond between themselves. I have big dreams for this book’s future!