This review contains mild spoilers.
An all-American tale of virtue and true love, Little Women is the nineteenth-century coming-of-age story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. A true classic, following the lives of these four spirited sisters, readers can explore Alcott’s family drama as they navigate life with a father at war, financial hardships, and the lure and intrigue of the handsome young man who lives next door.
I’ve seen the 1994 movie and loved the musical adaptation but this was my first time reading Little Women all the way through. (I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have started reading and put it down a few times because the first few chapters were so familiar.) So I was thrilled to find that the novel is as enchanting as I had hoped.
Before I say anything else, I want to encourage everyone to go and visit Orchard House in Concord, which is where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. While this book may not be totally autobiographical, my visit to Orchard House in 2014 helped me picture so many things clearly in my mind’s eye. Plus, the town is like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. It’s just adorable. You MUST go.
And now to the story. My vague recollections from the 1994 movie have always left me with the impression that Amy and Laurie made a strange couple. But this book makes me believe wholeheartedly in their love and relationship. And I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Amy telling Laurie that he’s being a lazy jerk and forcing him to look at his life choices.
Throughout the novel, I found myself—as many do—totally captivated by Jo’s character. She is, at times, hilariously realistic and I can see why so many people identify with her; I certainly did, especially when people kept walking in to find her crying over various books. I’ve previously heard people speculate about Jo being a lesbian or just being immature when it comes to marriage and relationships. To me, it seems more likely that she might be aromantic.
Since aromanticism is not commonly acknowledged in today’s society and would have been even less common in the 19th Century, I’m not surprised that Jo is portrayed as childish or even slightly emotionally stunted when it comes to romance. She still succumbs to the societal norm but even that takes a while and evolves from friendship rather than immediate romantic feelings. It’s something I never would’ve considered before, but with every passing chapter I felt more certain that the depiction of Jo as emotionally immature was almost a self-deprecating portrayal on Alcott’s behalf.
I love that each chapter of the novel feels like a short story. This format lends itself to a feeling of completeness all the way through the novel, as though you really have stopped by for a visit with the March girls for a day before meeting up with them later on. For a while it seemed like every chapter was going to have a heavy dosage of the moralistic element that Jo was warned against in the novel. Thankfully, it came off as sweet most of the time rather than preachy, so it was a welcome change rather than a relief when the chapters flowed more easily without the moral lesson.
Little Women was wonderful; despite being written almost 150 years ago, it still remains incredibly relevant and a great novel for people of all ages. Though it sometimes felt like the flow was broken by the moral lessons, it soon became far more narrative-based and had a steady plot to keep readers interested. I’m glad that I finally freed this book from my TBR pile; it was a perfect read for the Christmas season.
I rate it ★★★★