This post was originally written for my travel blog, Fernweh Follies:
Title: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Genre: Coming of Age; Children’s Lit
Page count: 472
Publication Date: October 1868/April 1869, as separate volumes; 1880, combined
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, is a beloved children’s story from 1800’s. While melodramas and moments of piety litter the pages, there is a wholesome comfort that wraps you up in Alcott’s tale and explains why it has stood the test of time. You root for every character no matter how small– from annoying Frank to the ever-wise Hannah, every person plays a part in building Alcott’s pure and idyllic depiction of Civil-War-era New England.
Coming out when literature revealed in over-embellished descriptions –likely because authors were paid by the word when writing for magazines and newspapers– I found certain chapters cumbersome while others I could not put down. I finished reading last night around 5:30 PM, having dedicated my Saturday to completing the book.
The beauty of Alcott’s text is that she craftily made each chapter its own story with a beginning, middle, and end. if you find yourself struggling to read through the text (as I did) and have not put a time limit on yourself (like I did) consider reading the book like a short story anthology, written chronologically; absorbing each chapter as its own nugget of literary gold.
My favorite part of this book has to be the constructions of the March sisters. Jo, the scholarly; Meg, the romantic; Amy, the poised; and Beth, the serene, Alcott bestowed each March with a virtue of the ‘perfect woman’ from her era. Each sister also comes with a very specific fault that would have been unbecoming to woman of the time: Jo, independence; Meg, vanity; Amy, greed; and Beth, reclusiveness.
While Jo is often deemed the leading character of this novel by many because of her loud, quirky, and charming presence the four sisters clearly form a universally perfect woman of the 1800’s. Without one sister, the others do not fully exist. This is why Beth’s death, while expected, causes such a blow to the reader as well as the family. It’s artfully done and impressive, to say the least.
A truly feminine text for its time, Little Women does have its flaws when read by a person in 2020. Meg’s beliefs on marriage are more than problematic and Mr. Lawrence’s use of the words ‘hussy’ and ‘pussy’ made me disappointed in the old man I was personally so fond of. With that said, I believe reading older literature gives us the opportunity to see how our society has grown and gives us insight into have the world has yet to change. So, even though the patriarchy is strong in this one, I won’t hold it against Alcott.
For all of these reasons and more, I’ve given Little Women a 3.5 on my experience scale. It could have been an easier read, but thick books with dynamic characters are a personal joy of mine, so Little Women can continue being a coveted classic and is definitely worth the read.
Let me first start with explaining what a florilegium is. The word comes from Latin roots and literally translates to, “a gathering of flowers.” When in use, a florilegium is more of a quote bouquet. When you create a florilegium, you pull quotes or phrases that speak to you from a text– or many texts– and rearranging them into a collection, or anthology; creating new meaning from the words you’ve read.
I’ve decided to make a chronological florilegium for each book I review so that everyone can get a brief glimpse of the actual words that impacted me most during the read. Without further ado, here is my Little Women Florilegium:
-- necessity being the mother of invention -- but, dear me, let us be elegant or die! as much out of place as a colt in a flower garden no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping rich people have about as many worries as poor ones love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride there is a charm about fine clothes which attracts a certain class of people I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, then queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace as if the spirit of '76 inspired them God seems so far away I can't find Him 'Prunes and prisms' are my doom The quiet scholar, sitting among his books, was still the head of the family for laughter is ready when hearts are light money cannot be refinement of nature when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon the young authoress laid her firstborn on her table, and chopped it up as ruthlessly as an ogre as if they were unfledged angels he is a gentleman in spirt of the brown-paper parcels the Old World, which is always new and beautiful to young eyes talking English very loud, as if that would make people understand him she preferred imaginary heroes to real ones the poor man must have needed a deal of food after teaching idiots all day being asked to cut off her baby's legs in order that it might fit into a new cradle I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient I should be homesick for you even in heaven the mission of politicians seemed to be calling each other names a paternal priest taught his flock music too ethereal to uplift a mortal woe for he lets me read his heart (as I dare say my reader has during this little homily) the first love is the best
The next review comes out September 13. I will be reading Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump, PhD. If you want to join in, feel free to read along and leave your thoughts in the comments!