Book Review #2 — Little Women by Louisa May AlcottImage

 

Looking back at my last post, I realize that I have taken two months to read this book. At first, this made me feel like a total slacker and incompetent fool who made a blog and then barely gave it a thought afterward. However, in my mission statement for this blog I said that I would read four books a year, so in a normal  year that would give me three months per book (roughly), so two months is nothing compared to the long haul my dear readers are in for!

Anyway, I finally finished Little Women! I’d say it took me so long because summer got very hectic. I started working six days a week and only really had time to read when I went to the pool (which was infrequently). Yesterday, I just sucked it up and read over 100 pages just so I could finish the book before September. I finished the book, and here is the review. Drum roll. Whatever.

Rating: ★★★★

Same rating as last time!

Little Women ended up being everything I thought it was going to be, and a little more. I expected seeing the lives of women during the Civil War, I expected to see romance and heartbreak, I expected death and tragedy. What I didn’t expect was the strong moral aspect of the novel. This can be seen in roughly every chapter, as each one has a story to tell about one or more of the sisters and how they learned a lesson from experience or from the people around them.

Another thing I didn’t expect was Jo. I’ve read a little more about the novel, and found that Jo is usually named the heroine of the story, even though it does a good job of keeping the narration evenly spread through the four sisters. Jo was more modern, more mannish, and more unforgivingly herself that I expected. What I mean is that she is constantly pressured to be more womanly and she usually just goes about being fairly unwomanly. She matures very well throughout the story, but remains very much herself. For example, in the second to last chapter she and Bhaer finally share their feelings for one another and she is described as being messy, covered in dirt, not acting coy in the slightest and not caring about any of it. She does learn a lot about manners, holding her temper, and acting kind to others, but she never gives up her love of sport and of writing.

I could write a whole post about Jo’s love for writing. I love how she is able to be successful and that her stories, from the scandalous to the moral, are able to find resonance in their readers. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Jo is in New York and writes extremely shocking stories and is censured by Bhaer. I don’t know why I enjoy that part so much, but it just strikes me as funny.

Something else I have to comment on is the split between the first and second half of the novel. The first half is a masterpiece of itself, I probably would have given that five stars. It introduces us to the four sisters and makes us so familiar with them that they seem like real people. I adored reading about Meg and Jo’s relationship and position as the two eldest daughters. I loved the gradual inclusion of the Laurence family into the March’s household.

Of the four sisters, Jo is obviously my favorite, but I think that Meg is my second favorite. I was very upset that she was given very few story lines in the second half of the novel, except to be a conduit for lessons on how to be a good mother and wife. Although, I did love her romance and marriage to Mr. Brooke. I worried that she would marry someone unsuitable like Ned Moffat, but was pleasantly surprised by her character when she fell in love with Brooke.

Beth is bound to be loved by anyone who reads about her. She is a lovely character, but probably the least believable out of the four. Her illness and death brings a sense of realism to the story, as it is set in such a tragic time period. Her actual death was one of very few spoilers I knew about before I read the novel, because of an episode of Friends. So I didn’t really feel the impact of her death (though I am notoriously cold hearted and do not often cry or feel unnecessarily upset at character trauma). The only part I felt hopelessly sad was at the very end of the novel, in the last chapter. The entire family has found their own forms of happiness, and everyone has gathered together. At the end, Mrs. March talks to her three remaining daughters about how happy they all are and how happy that makes her. I felt so desperately sad that all the sisters had found this happiness, but Beth had died prematurely and never really been able to experience life.

Amy was probably my least favorite sister, because she was so annoying and exactly the type of girl that I don’t like in the first half. In the second half she matured very nicely and ended up being a lovely person. I was afraid that she would grow very vain and self-important, but she kept on being her mother’s daughter and never let herself sink too far into the muck of high society. Another reason I didn’t particularly like Amy is because she married Laurie.

I fell head over heels in love with Laurie when he was first introduced at the dance that Jo and Meg went to. That chapter is probably one of my favorites. Meg is described as being very beautiful and proper, so I was afraid any introduction to the Laurence boy would end up in him falling for her. I loved that he was so attentive to Jo and they became best friends very quickly. The moment I fell in love with him was when him and Jo danced in the hall, so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed by her burnt dress but still could dance. Naturally, I was very unhappy when Jo rejected his love and he ran off to Amy. I do like the inclusion of Bhaer, and very much think he is suited to Jo, however in my heart I always wanted Jo and Laurie to be together.

A final character that I wish to speak about is Mrs. March. Throughout the book, she is placed as the voice of reason and comfort to all of the girls. She is portrayed as an almost perfect mother, who shares love and special advice with all of the girls. She is highly moralistic, a little preachy, but generally lovely and adored by all. I think of all the characters she is probably the most one dimensional, but I couldn’t help but love her as she is the quintessential mother.

Overall, Little Women was a delightful book that provided a thorough snapshot of an interesting time period. It’s portrayal of women was realistic yet slightly feminist in the inclusion of Jo and her career aspirations. The characters are ones that will stay in my heart, especially Jo, Meg, Laurie, Mr. Laurence, and Mrs. March.

Favorite Scene: As I mentioned before, my favorite scene was when Laurie and Jo met at the dance and talked privately before dancing in the hall where no one could see them. It was very sweet and romantic, and buried false hope in my heart, but I loved it anyway!

Book #3: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I have picked this book because I own it. I was never forced to read it in high school or any class, although I had the option to read it twice (on group reading projects, I just never chose to read it). Obviously I know a little about it just from school book reports that others have given. Something about a shell. Something about a fat boy. Death. Chaos. I’m pretty sure it has to do with a group of schoolboys on an abandoned island and a struggle for power. This is one book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, because I always felt that I should.

So I shall.

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