Saturday, February 26, 2011

Little Women : a review

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

This was my first time reading Little Women, the classic novel of four sisters growing up poor in New England during the Civil War. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are typical teenage girls, and their many adventures and struggles make for entertaining stories. For instance, though the family can’t afford gifts at Christmas, the girls all pool their money to treat their mother to special gifts, and they performed a play and invited neighbors to watch. At Amy’s school, eating limes becomes all the rage, and the girls in her class bring them to school to share with their friends. Amy had to scrimp and save, and by the time she was able to bring limes to share, they had been banned because of the distraction. She tried to hide them in her desk, but the teacher found her out and made her dispose of them all. Ok, it’s not the stuff of current YA novels, but it’s all very dramatic and amusing, trust me.

This book is right up my alley, like Little House or Pride and Prejudice, and I have no idea why I waited so long to read it. After attending a conference session on the life of Louisa May Alcott last fall, I put it on my “to read” list for this year, so finding it preloaded on my new nook was kismet. I enjoyed it a lot, at least for the first half. Later I started losing my taste for it as the sisters all started getting married off or dying. There was also a really annoying chapter focused on Meg’s babies, who are portrayed as precious little cherubs who always speak in very syrupy fake-sounding baby talk. I have just learned that Little Women was originally published in two volumes, the first ending just after Meg got married. This would have been a great place to stop, and if I were to read it again I probably would only go to that point. I like it better when the girls are younger with all their hopes and dreams for the future open to them, not saddled down with husbands and babies and the sadness of one of the sisters dying so young.

Although the book was a bit long I did enjoy curling up with it every night, as much as one can curl up with an electronic device. Reading electronically is a different experience. I certainly like being able to carry an entire library of books on one small device, but I can’t just flip back and forth to find a passage, for instance, or skim through the chapter titles when I’m finished to refresh my memory in preparations to review the book. I keep forgetting to use the bookmark feature to mark pages I would normally dog-ear (I know, bad librarian, but I can’t help it), but I do like the screen and the small size and I’m hoping I’ll get used to the navigation.

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