Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Not being at uni means classic books aren’t being thrown at me left, right and centre. Unlike most of my fellow grads, I miss reading books like that. That’s why I created “The Classics Challenge”, which will see me read several “classic” books over the course of the year, starting with Little Women.

Ok, so the whole challenge came to be because of this book or, more specifically, because of the movie adaptation. Though there have been a few times, I’ll admit, I’m usually a read-the-book-first-watch-the-movie-second kind of girl. Though, with Alcott’s novel, this wasn’t the case.

I had hoped I’d squeeze in the book before the movie came out but, unfortunately, I read it pretty slowly. Of course, as I read on, I realised that a book like this demands to be read in this way so that you can savour the characters and every detail Alcott gives.

From what I knew about it, I always had some sort of Sex and the City vibes in my head. I had no idea it was a book about family, love and hardship- with only one dodgy haircut in sight!

For anyone (like me) who’s obviously been living under a classic literature rock, the book follows the March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy) and takes us through their childhood and womanhood.

I feel like the problem with books in this era, sometimes, is that the female characters seem too similar. Luckily, Alcott gave us four completely different (though equally interesting) characters. We had Meg (the girl who loved attending fancy dances and wearing the best clothes), Jo (the boyish writer), Beth (the quiet, musical one) and Amy (the loud artist).

People give Amy a bad rep but, honestly, I didn’t find her character that bad. Yes, she was bratty and loud and annoying at times but I think we’ve all been like that at some point, whether we’re “the Amy” or someone else we know is. I like that each sister had different interests, different views and wasn’t just the standard cookie-cutter type who married and became mostly silent in the novel.

I think, if I had to pick a sister that I liked the most, Jo was the one. I’m not a tomboy in any sense (though I do favour jeans over dresses now, because comfort seems to have overtaken any attempt at me being fashionable!) but I think I identified with Jo the most. Like Jo, I’m a writer or at least I want to be one (once I stop procrastinating) and I think – somewhere between the self doubt and getting lost in my head – I possess a similar determination to get my goal that I saw in Jo. Of course I’m not as feisty as her, though I do tend to stick to banter with boys just like Jo (though I’m pretty sure, if the novel had me in Jo’s place, I’d have significantly less dialogue with Laurie). I think what stuck with me the most was how much she loved her siblings throughout, she did everything for them and I hope I will become like that with my own.

A novel isn’t a novel without secondary characters. Mrs March (or Marmee) is wonderful, it was amazing how much she gives up for her family – and for the town – and I loved the interaction between her and her daughters. As well, we have Aunt March, who kind of reminds me of a sassy-less-reliant-on-men Miss Havisham, who was mean and traditional but also quite funny. As well as that, there’s Mr Laurence and his grandson Laurie. I liked how Mr Laurence loved the girls, especially Beth, and I felt sorry for him. I’ll admit though, despite him being quite funny, I didn’t like Laurie. Something about his character just didn’t sit well with me.

Though I’m disappointed I didn’t read the book before the film, I’m glad I read it. I got myself fully involved in the March family, laughed with them, cried with them and felt every word they said.

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