“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Little Women is arguably one of my favorite books in the world (I have a lot of favorites when it comes to books ;)), and most definitely the book I've read most. I have a tiny green-covered copy, and it has been read so many times that it's apt to fall apart sometime soon. But I can't help it — I absolutely love the March family. There was a period in time — before Ava was born and when Ethan was too young to play — when Bree, Emilia, Lydia, and I were always acting out Little Women. The casting list changed by the day (and sometimes by the hour) until we finally settled on playing in age order, with me as Meg, Bree as Jo, Emilia as Beth, and Lydia as Amy. Those days have long since passed, but I still look back on the memories with a special fondness. (Not to mention that it was with amazement that I realized I am now the age Jo is in the beginning of the book — fifteen — an age that seemed so old, so grown-up, when I was eight.)
By Louisa May Alcott
*Summary via Goodreads.com
Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War.
Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg's joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo's struggle to become a writer, Beth's tragedy, and Amy's artistic pursuits and unexpected romance.
Based on Louise May Alcott's childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.
My Thoughts: Oh my, where to begin? This splendid book is overflowing with heartwarming tales of family life, making do in the midst of poverty, and working through life's hardships together. We hear of the classic incident in which Jo burns Meg's hair, Beth's special gift from old Mr. Laurence, Amy's twenty-four delicious pickled limes (she ate one on the way to school), various plays put on by the four girls, meetings of The Pickwick Society, and Jo's disastrous luncheon. At the end of each chapter, Marmee is there to help the girls rejoice in their triumphs and learn from their mistakes. When Marmee leaves to tend to an ill Father in Washington, the girls take up their additional responsibilities with good will, desiring to do all they can to help.
Each girl has something which endears her to her readers. Meg is kind, helpful, and motherly, wanting to be married with plenty of little children. Jo is a flighty soul and a wonderful writer, with a "quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit." Sweet Beth, "Little Faithful," is a dear, shy character, and though not quite as relatable due to her seeming lack of faults, will quickly find her way to your heart. And what of Amy? Amy, the talented, the beautiful, the artistic, the would-be fashion plate if she didn't have to wear hand-me-downs. She provides a great deal of comic relief within the pages, although I fear she would swiftly grow irritating if released into the real world. There are scores of other wonderful characters, including mischievous Laurie, gruff but kindly Mr. Laurence, studious Mr. Brooke, and Hannah, the Marches' dear housekeeper-turned-family-member, but I would go on for hours if allowed to discuss each individually. You'll just have to read the book. :)
Part II takes a more concise and serious tone than the former, dwelling on the four girls as they become grown women. There are marriages, trips, and touches of tragedy, making the stories more solemn and mature. Though just as well-written and humorous as Part I, I prefer the stories about when the girls are younger and still living at home together.
Pros: One of the most wholesome and wonderful books for girls that I have ever read. It is engaging, entertaining, wonderful, and yet refuses to include a smidgen of language, violence, or inappropriate content. The romance is portrayed in a manner that is clean, but still very sweet. In addition, the girls are portrayed so realistically that you feel as if they are real — no stiff dialogue here! I'd recommend Little Women to anyone.
Cons: Though Christians, the girls' faith seems to be based more on good works than true faith in a Savior. They speak of God in more Deistic terms, as if He were a Being who set the earth in motion, but did not necessarily intervene in the lives of men afterwards. Meg refers to Heaven as "a [lovely] country . . . where we shall go by-and-by, when we are good enough." This makes no mention of accepting Jesus' saving grace, but of relying on one's own works to get into Heaven.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 10+
A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"Meg's high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo's nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!" — Little Women, chapter 3