Read from August 06 to September 01, 2015.
ebook, 678 pages.
Is this book still relevant to little women in modern day? Did I find this book enjoyable? Only slightly. What this book does have is extremely memorable characters that stick with you. However, does this book need to be 678 pages? Fuck no.
Margaret, Jo, Beth and Amy are young sisters living in a middle class family in the early 19th century and as a reader you follow the girls as each of them become women. The book opens with the girls at Christmas missing their father who is at war and wondering how they are going to get through the next year financially and emotionally. Mrs. March, their mother quickly notices the girl’s moping and gets them to work be sending their breakfast over to some neighbours who are not as well off as they are. The plot is full of moral lessons such as this one as Mrs. March is undoubtedly the mentor and teacher in story. Margaret, the family beauty, is always trying to do the right thing and not get too hung up on materialistic items, while Jo struggles to be a lady and harness her anger and tom boy ways while yearning to be a writer. Beth is shockingly shy but always so sweet, Amy is the youngest and is very impressionable in terms of society and popularity. The family learns to love, live and grieve without wealth and each young woman chooses different life paths, unique to their personality.
The plot has auto-biographical references to Alcott’s own childhood as each of her own sisters is represented in the book. Not surprisingly, Alcott fashioned herself as Jo, the strong willed aspiring writer. Jo is by far the most intrinsic and interested character out of all the girls as her struggles seem to be the most prevalent and detailed in the book. Amy, I found was an unlikable character and I’m not sure if she was meant to be read as such but she is so wound up in money and society that she becomes a big put off.
I loved Alcott’s character work and truly became attached to each of the girls, however, this book is just way too freaking long. I really felt that this novel could have ended after the first part, shortly after Margaret got married. While I would have missed the development of Jo’s character in the second half the book, it really should have been a whole separate novel that followed Jo. In the second part of the book, if the content wasn’t about Jo it was pretty uneventful. Additionally, I don’t know why Alcott felt the need to go into great detail on the songs and games that they played as it was really unnecessary to include half a chapter of the lyrics of the songs that they were singing, or even the lengths she went to describe some of the letters written back in forth between some characters.
One thing that irked me a bit was how much almost all of the girls complained. It felt like the girls remained ungrateful for ages! While not true, it seemed to come up a lot. Each of them learned, but it wasn’t until the end of the book that all four of them stopped complaining. Speaking of complaining, I also felt that Mrs. March was really under detailed. She is phenomenal character, mother and mentor to these four girls. She teaches them, and the reader a lot about life. I suppose as the mother figure, it’s not something that young readers really want to read about, so I guess that just makes me old?
Now for the big question, is this book still relevant to young girls? I have mixed feelings. I think that the ultimate message of the book is about being grateful for what you have, to understand the worth of your family and to be kind and generous, all items that are extremely relevant to teenage girls. However, the lifestyle that the March girls live is nothing like the way girls today live. We don’t marry as young and we have to work in order to sustain any sort of lifestyle, versus living off a family fortune or a husband’s work or wealth. I don’t even feel that this book gave a good depiction of grief, even though there was an opportune moment to teach young people about death.
Overall, I’m thankful I tackled this classic but I don’t have a desire to read any more Alcott for the time being. I’d recommend this book for girls between the ages of 14 and 16.