Little Women

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.

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An old childhood favourite: ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’

For the past 3 years I have found time to reread this story and to share it with some of the young people I work with, and it never fails to draw me in as effectively as it did when I first read it as a child.

The story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, and their adventures, is so well known that it’s really not necessary for me to summarise it here. Needless to say, the mixture of magic and adventure was exactly the sort of thing I enjoyed reading as a child (and even now) and despite some elements not aging well (the way the children speak at times,  the casual sexism shown by Father Christmas), the story itself never grows old.

I was asked today who my favourite character in the book was, and I had to say (after a little thinking) Mr Tumnus. He’s the first magical creature we meet and he shows us that sometimes good people can make mistakes. However, as he realises his mistake, he stands up for what is right.

A lovely, lovely story, and one I’m sure I will be enjoying for many years to come.

‘The Fault in our Stars’ – a good YA book – but not for me!

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I’ve been reading this book for the last 2 weeks and everyone seems to want to talk to me about it… “Are you enjoying it?” “How far into it are you?” It’s one of those books that the people around me all seem to be reading.

But here’s the problem – whilst it wasn’t the worst book I’ve read this year, it just doesn’t live up to the hype.

It tells the story of 17 year old Hazel who has terminal cancer. One day at support group she meets Augustus who has seemingly  recovered from osteosarcoma following an amputation. They fall in love almost instantly, in that way that only teenagers can. Along the way they travel to Amsterdam in pursuit of an elusive author, before the novel reaches its (spoiler alert) tragic conclusion.

It’s really hard to explain what it was about this book that just didn’t grab me – although it probably begins and ends with the fact that stories about teenagers with cancer aren’t really my cup of tea. Or perhaps that the tragic romance is primarily designed to appeal to teenage girls.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t recommend it, it just didn’t seem to live up to the ‘buzz’ that seems to surround it.