As a child, one of my favourite classics was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It has been many years since I last read it, and as I began to read it again I wondered whether it would live up to my strong childhood memories of the story.
Little Women was originally published in two parts, but is now generally sold in one volume, telling the story of the March sisters. The story begins at Christmas, when Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are mourning the lack of presents due to their current state of poverty. The novel follows Jo and her sisters as they grow up, improving themselves, finding love and dealing with loss.
Little Women is a well – loved classic and one that I remember with real fondness. The story is still as interesting as I found it as a child and Jo is an engaging and powerful protagonist to centre the novel on. At times, however, Little Women is overly drawn – out and prone to moral lecturing. I particularly found the pages describing Meg’s children to be an unnecessary distraction from what felt like the ‘real story’.
This is not to say that the overall result of Little Women is unpleasant or a poor reading experience: there is a reason that it is such a popular classic still. The faults and flaws shown by the main characters are ones that we can still relate to: Meg’s desire for worldly goods and pretty things; Jo’s quick temper and impatience; Amy’s desire to impress and be accepted; Laurie’s tendency to be idle and petulant when he doesn’t get his own way. Alcott paints for us an image of characters who try to do the right thing but often get it wrong, make mistakes and need to begin all over again… and shows us that this is in fact the only way to become better people – a message still relevant to today’s reader.
The romances within the novel make for enjoyable reading, but at heart Little Women is a love story of an entirely different nature: it is a story of love between sisters and between family.