Week Four: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Fourth book of the year! This was read from January 20th to January 26th 2014.  Also, the last book of January.


Short Mein Bole Toh: Re-reading a classic is always enlightening and even more so if you originally read an abridged version meant for 8-year-olds. Little Women made me laugh, frown and so much more.

If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.

I am obsessed with women writers and for some reason the same continued even after Parwaaz. However, these are two extremes of writing even if they may be by women. Obviously, by no parameters can a 19th Century American woman be compared to a 19th Century Indian one. Even so, reading these two books right after each other was one of the best choices I made this year.

Little Women, if you do not already know, is the story of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Mary-daughters in a family that is dealing with the American Civil War. It traces how these girls grow up into women in-charge of their lives. Thankfully, marriage is not the only goal in their lives and the girls go through death, betrayal and changes in economic conditions too.

The story begins with a bleak Christmas celebration because the girls’ father is a chaplain at the War. The “action” in the novel begins when a wealthy family with a son the age of Jo, named Laurence (Laurie) moves next door to the March family. The reader will immediately recognise that he will eventually be a suitor for one of the girls.

At this point I almost dreaded the fact that the only real character in the book Jo-the tomboyish-outspoken daughter-would change for Laurie and become a docile family woman. Thankfully, Alcott had other plans in mind. After all the multiple trips to New York and Europe with aunts and grandfathers, death of the darling Beth and the birth of delicate beauty Meg’s kids, the novel ends with all loose ends tied neatly enough to compete with a Karan Johar movie. Little Women Cover

In Alcott’s defense, she had to write a book for girls and one that would appeal to all girls. The first part of the book is just that – romantic and full of opportunities for the girls. It’s a fairy tale. The second part changes it’s tone, and how! I think, and I cannot know for sure, Alcott takes a more realistic tone at this part and the characters finally have to deal with obstacles and make decisions that are not really easy to make. For me, Part II was the saviour.

I shouldn’t really take into consideration the fact that these girls are 16-15-13 and 12, ages at which I really cannot imagine them so mature (they do grow up through the novel, but still!); however considering the fact that I read Rabondranath Tagore’s Gora last year who had a 12 year old girl speaking like my grandmother, it isn’t much to ponder on. Perhaps, girls have just decided to be less worldly wise now.

I was probably 10 or younger when I read this “book”. My copy ended in 50-pages and also had illustrations. The original that I read now has 47 chapters and around nine times the pages of the abridged version I read. All in all, I am glad I “re-read” this classic because I see the religious undercurrents and the overwhelming gender stereotypes that I wouldn’t have observed the first time around and because it gave me an idea of what I would be reading in February with new perspectives. (Psst.. it’s Jane Austen).

Who Should Read: If you do not mind a book that is slow by modern standards and which feels and reads like a desi feel-good movie with videshi characters. If you want more, there’s a sequel to the book called “Good Wives”.
Who Should Not Read: You should certainly not read this book if you cannot get past the 21st century mindset of women and would interpret it with today’s sensibilities. Also, if you cannot watch a three-hour mindless movie where the only agenda is to get the characters to grow up and finally “settle down”, then this is certainly not for you.

If you would like to read someone else’s opinion on the same, you can read it here.
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2 thoughts on “Week Four: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

  1. I first read this book when I was around 14 and I instantly liked it! The characters aren’t essentially complex, rather stereotypical as you said except maybe Jo and even Laurie to an extent but nevertheless very endearing and unforgettable. Sure it’s slow-paced but it was more of an indulgence to me… I read it again last year and I still enjoyed it a lot except that the first part no longer appealed to me as much… Like you, I was glad that Part II was a bit more realistic. All in all I think it’s a good read when you don’t want to read something too heavy.
    Hey btw Part II = Good Wives. Part II, which starts with Meg’s wedding was written later by Alcott and published as ‘Good Wives’ but now almost every edition of ‘Little Women’ includes the ‘Good Wives’ story as Part II. The sequels are ‘Little Men’ and ‘Jo’s Boys’.

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    • Aha! Thanks for that correction Sneha!

      It’s an indulgence and on that I while heartedly agree. I’m experimenting with the Kindle app on Android and this was the first book I spotted in the free books section. Then I went, “Why not?!” 🙂

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