First published in 1868, Little women is a story about an American family that follows the lives of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth. The story takes the reader through the span of their childhood till they reach motherhood. The four sisters are in no way flawless. While Jo is a literary genius, she is wild and possessive, Meg is a hopeless romantic who has frequent yearnings for luxury and is plagued by greed. Amy is an epitome of elegance who is fascinated by art, however, she is selfish. And Beth is a model child and is too kind for her own good. These girls, although they lack money, possess an abundance of love from their mother and father. These supportive and loving parents guide them through their journey with righteous teachings in times of distress and correct them when they are wrong. This family is an example of happiness for their neighbor, Laurie, a young boy who lives with his grandfather and longs for some company. He is soon welcomed as a part of the March family and becomes Jo March’s best friend and a son to Mrs. March. Hence, begins their adventure.
There are various good things about this book. First is character development. As the book progresses, these flawed little girls bloom into beautiful and respectable young women. Reading about their lives and watching them grow makes the reader develop a warm affection towards each one of them. Second is writing. The writing style is moralistic and righteous. Although not poetic, it is very touching and empowering. It can get dense at times but reading about the characters and their feelings only adds to the reader’s experience. It may seem like you don’t care for the characters but towards the end, the writing makes you realize how much you actually do. The pacing of the book is slow and it may take a while for a while to get invested in the book, however, it is quite worth it.
If I have to pick one bad thing about the book, I would say that in the beginning, as one is still getting used to the writing style, some passages may feel too preachy. The imperfections in the young girls may come off as annoying. However, their growth is worth sticking for.
As I was reading about the book, I researched a bit about the author and apart from the book itself, Louisa had a very meaningful life. She worked as a civil war nurse, fought for slavery and went door to door to encourage women to vote. She herself was poor and grew up with three sisters. Her resemblance to Jo March is very obvious if you read about her.
Some things that I noted as very interesting are:
The initiation of Pickwick Club by the girls, which references to an all men club in a Dickens novel. However, the girls form the club and make it all women until later on, Laurie is also allowed to join the club reluctantly, which made me wonder if it is a subtle implication of how women are more accommodating of men than men are of women.
Although the story is about all four girls and Jo definitely mentions how she is not a heroine of any sorts, I definitely felt like Jo March was the central heroine, as the events related to Beth and Laurie (of whom Jo deeply cares about, hence, goes through pain and loneliness) were made so consequential that it is bound to stir the emotions of the reader.
The book also made me think about how different women have different ambitions and how each one of them is respectable and praiseworthy. Reading the book, as a woman, made me feel proud and dignified and I want this experience for everyone.