Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reader's Diary #1130- Louisa May Alcott: Little Women

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women has sat on my sidebar for several years now under the heading Glaring Omissions, a list of classic or well-known books that I felt I really need to make an effort to read. I've been avoiding it. It felt like vegetables.

Strikes against it? I saw the 1994 movie starring Winona Ryder and thought it was as boring as dirt. When I said as much here on my blog, I was told that if I didn't enjoy the movie, I'd probably not like the book. And the third strike: I read Alcott's A Long Fatal Love Chase. It was horrible.

But that Glaring Omissions list was starting to dwindle down and Little Women had to be checked off sooner or later. Long story short, I read it and enjoyed it okay. I think the catch for me was connecting to Jo early on. With her slight lack of concern for gender roles, she reminded me of another Jo, the one from The Facts of Life, and I used to have a huge crush on her. But Alcott's Jo was also the first character in the book that felt real (despite the connection to a sitcom character). The rest of the girls started off oozing too much sentimentality, the mom was a bit too perfect, and I was afraid I had another Long Fatal Love Chase on my hands.

But once Jo broke through all that and showed more dimension, so did the other girls. As did their neighbour Laurie, who was so much a pivotal character as any of the others that it really could have been called Four Little Women and One Little Man. And it also made me understand A Long Fatal Love Chase a little more. Jo, apparently based loosely upon Alcott herself, was also a writer and wrestled between writing overly romantic, sensational melodramas that paid the bills or writing authentic and meaningful pieces that struggled to find an audience. A Long Fatal Love Chase may as well have been one of Jo's cash grabs.

Finally, another reason I enjoyed it was that I took it in small doses. I still think it'd be rather boring to sit down and read a lot in one sitting, but I picked at it over the course of a couple of months and found it to be a pleasant, if not terribly exciting diversion.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I read this 150 years ago and only retain vague recollections of it. Kudos to you for tackling this while not being a teenaged girl.

raidergirl3 said...

Now watch the Friends episode where Joey reads it, thinking it'll be about girls.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I've been hearing that a lot lately.

Raidergirl: Vaguely recall that episode. I do remember him reading Love You Forever, though. I also remember Moe reading Little Women on the Simpsons.