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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review of Little Women

Oh, book of little women about your little men! I was charmed by Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and I'm bound to read another book by her. It has been suggested that I read "Eight Cousins." I could not help but notice that each of the girls is involved in the pursuit of a man to make her life complete, because as she sees it, the formation of a family is the focus of a young man or woman's life, and why be coy about it? The characters in "Little Women" each of whom the reader follows from childhood to young adulthood into motherhood, are a combination of saucy, bitingly honest, refreshingly sincere and touchingly common, in the gentlest sense of the word. Even the vocabulary reflects their station in life. At any given point, the reader can find a sentence in which the character states "It don't mean" or she "don't intend to" but they do not lack commonsense or book smarts, as provided by their home-schooling mother, fondly called"Marmee." Money is never the focus of their love interests, while still being of key importance to young women who always struggled for more than the basic necessities. And yet, when necessary, they gave generously of what they called their own, be it time, money, clothing or food. Throughout the book, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth, lovingly exist in their plain home next to the dwelling of the Laurence boy, Teddy. His friendship with them is of long-standing, in fact, he finally becomes a part of the family. Each of the girls has their own special quality that serves them best and makes them special to the other members of the family. Jo is focused on primarily, and she, in turn, focuses on the family for the readers, who see them through Jo's eyes. There is Meg, proper oldest sister, who becomes a model of domesticity for her younger sisters, and Amy, the painfully shy youngest sister, talented piano player, much beloved of Mr. Laurence, the girls benefactor and appointed grandfather, who has a piano moved to the house for the March girls pleasure. Beth,next youngest, is never quite well, but decidedly proper and made much of by her sisters, particularly Jo.And then, Jo, the writer, outspoken and unabashedly opinionated, admired by her sisters, self-appointed protector and instructor for Teddy. 
Not only were the characters quite fun to observe as they developed into "little women" but the story was well-written, full of literary allusions and other well noted references. Each chapter is titled and progresses the story to its conclusion, in which the March sisters are happily ensconced within their small, nuclear families. It was a relaxing pleasure to read "Little Women" and I did not find it syrupy sweet as I suspected I might due to the era in which it was written. No, I looked forward to the ways in which they solved each of their dilemmas and I think I read it at the appropriate time in my life, when I seemed to benefit from an enduring classic of the American home. It seemed to me not unlike a memoir, and as it is based loosely on Alcott's life I think it is safe to say it was fiction's closest cousin. I recommend it highly, and also suggest it for a family read.

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