Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Helllllo readers, I have a really exciting book review today because it just so happens to be my last classic book, completing the ten classic books challenge. I have had an odd relationship with classic books. Being forced to read them during my A levels I have always spited them and avoided them. However, I decided it was time to try a number of books and after including it in my 101 things challenge I haven’t looked back. I will be writing a follow up post about the challenge and I won’t be stopping reading and reviewing classic books, but for now, onto the review.

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Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books rapidly over several months at the request of her publisher. The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.

When I first read this book (numerous times) at the age of nine or ten I really struggled. It is only now that I really think I can appreciate and understand the different characters and the language used. The book follows four sisters; Meg the mature one that longs for a more luxurious life. Jo the adventurous, slightly boyish one who wants to prove her worth, Beth the darling but fragile sister and Amy who is a little vain, but adores art. The book follows the sisters as they struggle through a number of hardships; with their father away at war, and money tight the girls must find ways to care for one another whilst learning certain lessons from their dear mother in 1860’s New England.

Yes the writing and language is very noticeably dated and times a little heavy but it is the characters that make this book so memorable. Alcott has a chatty way of writing, both graceful and twee it sings a tale of the beautiful but sometimes strained relationship between the four sisters. All are portrayed honestly, with their both their strengths and weaknesses; Meg a gentle character who lacks a little self-belief, Jo who struggles to contain her temper, Beth’s who is a very sweet but weaker character and Amy who worries about her ‘un-Grecian nose.’ All of this and the difficulties of poverty are woven in amongst the love and lessons taught by the girls wonderful mother. The men involved in the tale play secondary character roles, mainly there to show the strengths and weaknesses of the sisters but are written with thought and care.

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The characters are well developed as the book continues and the setting is well described throughout such as the beautiful little garden. My only real wobble would be the moral lessons that seem to be almost injected into every single chapter. It is a little cloying and tiring but in the end also enjoyable. I think in the time the book was written it would be a lot more popular, here in the 21st Century it is dated but it makes for a more educated and intriguing writing style. I wanted to read classics to explore a different way of writing and this style has definitely been more telling of the time in which is was written and published.

Re-reading the book now I definitely think that I was too young to read it, the wordiness and the ideas portrayed are difficult to understand at a younger age (for me anyway) but I adored the warmth, honesty and beautiful little telling. I’ve read a number of reviews of this book which have definitely prompted me to read in the series of books the author wrote but I can’t decide whether it will ruin the first if the second doesn’t follow the same writing style and beautiful character description. However, I really enjoyed this tale, despite my feminist notions and my bubbling fury at some of the themes. I can’t quite believe I’ve finished my classic book challenge but I’m so proud of myself getting it all finished so quickly. Now, what classic shall I read next?

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  1. September 7, 2015 / 12:02 pm

    Great review, Lizzy. I adored this book when I was younger but when I reread it a few years ago, the moral lessons annoyed me, too. And Beth’s fate, so tragic to me when I was young, now doesn’t bother me – she was such a drip!

  2. September 7, 2015 / 4:14 pm

    Great review. I’ve often wondered if I’d enjoy Little Women as an adult as much as I enjoyed it as a child. Maybe I’ll re read it sometime.

    • September 8, 2015 / 8:32 am

      Would definitely recommend 🙂 I really adored reading it and was so glad I finally go through it!

    • September 8, 2015 / 8:33 am

      I think you should!! It was a really interesting read! Is the film worth a watch?

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