Period pieces, books that take you back to a period that is so different to ours now, but so similar in many ways. A classic American novel which should grace the shelves of many….or so they claim. This book has been on my radar for years, so I guess it’s about time I picked it up?! Lol. With the recent release of the updated film adaptation, it landed back on my radar, bringing it to the forefront and I decided it was probably the best time to give it a try. I suppose fate intervened, while in Winners (TJ Maxx/TK Maxx) I spotted it more because the cover was so beautiful and being a classic- it was no hesitation. So….sit back and read away and see what our stance is on this “classic novel”.
Most of us probably know the premise of the book, taking from the title Little Women, it follows the coming of age of 4 young March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy- each with their very distinctive characteristics. They live in relative poverty as their father is away helping out in the war efforts. The book follows them as they explore falling in love, boys, society’s pressures, womanhood and all the things in between. The book spans a year in their lives and opens with the 1st Christmas they are to spend without their father.
Break it Down:
I’ll put it out there- I’m going to potentially take on a controversial point of view but…here goes. I didn’t like this book and couldn’t for the life of me understand why it’s considered a classic in American literature🤔. R2 will kill me for saying it, but there it is! Fully confused and honestly disappointed. I will confess that I was in love with Jo and Laurie’s characters and felt more time should have been spent on them and especially on their friendship. I didn’t like how the story was written or how it progressed and felt at times chapters were dedicated to a topic and by its conclusion- it barely touched on it. A lot of the book felt like it missed the mark or that Alcott was attempting to make a statement, but didn’t want to be too direct with it- unless it’s just her writing style, especially for the era in which this book was written,
I appreciated the different characters the sisters were given, almost as a way to look in on society and the varying pressures women face, but having all 4 sisters with such distinct personalities was an interesting take. What I found refreshing, but also accepting that this book was written a very long time ago, was Jo’s character- she is classed as a tomboy- but for the reader or for me, she is a breath of fresh air, she’s blunt, emotional, spontaneous and most of all passionate. I cringed, but also loved some of the things she got up to, she was far more loving and thoughtful than she gave herself credit for. I loved how she didn’t adhere to social norms and had little to zero intentions of compromising. Meg, the beautiful, rule follower, who merely wanted to get married and have a family of her own- didn’t thrill me because she was very 1 dimensional to me. I didn’t understand her character but maybe that’s because I couldn’t relate to her and also because I love Jo’s character so much more. Beth being the peacemaker of the bunch is super close to Jo, she is musically talented and loved by all- though she is the one who calms Jo down, she is somewhat forgettable in the book. Amy, the materialistic sister, but also the one Jo fights with the most- they are opposites for the most part, but Amy is also the one who will take Jo to task, which is probably why they struggle to find common ground.
I fully accept that there was some very “edgy” subject matter considering the year the book was published. Jo shaving her head, dressing in a more masculine manner, arguing that women and men could maintain friendships without feelings, The idea of women remaining home and keeping the home- all these we would accept as feminist and very forward thinking thoughts; the topics could have been explored at a deeper level than what they were.
The majority of the book didn’t take me anywhere, I appreciated the fact that the author attempted to paint them as poor, but they were still able to have a “maid” and also didn’t have to constantly work, especially having the ability to simply decide on certain days, to simply not work and spend the day having a picnic or hanging out with Laurie. So, needless to say- I didn’t think the author did a good job showing their relative poverty when it came to their ability to simply ditch work when they so chose.
Would I recommend the book?:
I suppose I can’t say/I wouldn’t say not to read it, especially as it’s considered an American Classic, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my list of period dramas to recommend. Nope.
The RnR Rating:
2.5 out of 5