Little Woman Review and Thoughts

A couple of years ago I hosted a Little Women Read-Along event here on the blog and…

*sigh*

I never really closed up the event.  It’s not really in the best interest of the blogger to begin a post in this negative fashion but I have to be honest.  However, this kind of neglect is going to work on my favor because I’m going to talk about a topic in the framework of my favorite piece of literature.  I’m going to spend the next several few lines talking about literature, translation and communication. Aaaaaaannd even though I have written about this book before, I’ve never properly reviewed it so I thought I’d knock out a few thoughts on the story as well and count this as my official review.  This will be quite different than my usual review format but stay tuned, it’ll be fun!

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Rating: 5.0 – 5.0

My Thoughts:

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is an American literary treasure that has been a favorite of mine for over a decade.  The story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March is centered around themes of family, coming of age, friendship, life pursuits, heartache, and cherishing those things that are most important to us.

The story begins with the four sisters coping with the challenges of life in Civil War America.  While they’re used to a comfortable life, they now face the struggles of scrimping and pinching to help their mother, affectionately called ‘Marmee’, maintain their household while their father serves as a chaplain in the war.

The experiences of these four sisters are not so unlike those girls face today.  Meg and Amy deal with desires to be popular, pretty and well-liked.  Beth learns to come out of her comfort zone and stay diligent.  Jo, the heroine of the book and my literary doppelgänger, struggles with patience, social awkwardness, and finding a place for herself in the world.

Throughout the mishaps, tears, and triumphs, Marmee keeps the girls grounded and focused on what’s important.  She challenges them to do their best in life and rise above their weaknesses and struggles.  She encourages them to embrace their womanhood but also push past society’s narrow and sometimes silly expectations.  She values simplicity, hard work, and truthfulness and wants her daughters to do the same.  The story’s heroine may be Jo and the title may be Little Women but the woman behind these girls is a mother whose heart and soul helps to shape them into beautiful people.

And it would do no good whatsoever to not mention Laurie, the lovable boy next door and Jo’s BFFL.  He’s got his own set of coming-of-age challenges that I totally appreciate and enjoy reading about.  If you’ve read the book, you understand the struggle when it comes to Jo and Laurie.  I don’t need to say more. It’s been over ten years and I still struggle sometimes even though I completely understand why.  If you haven’t read the book, well, I’m not going to spoil it for you :).

I love, love,  love this book and will never tire of the book or the movie adaptations (there are 4 that I know of).  It’s very sweet and charming.  It’ll make you laugh, cry and may make you a bit angry at times but hey, that’s what a good story does right?  If it’s not there yet, I urge you fellow classic literature lovers, add it to your list of books to read!

Okay, let’s switch gears in the discussion for a minute and talk a little history and language.

This is a very American story.  Four young women growing up in a turbulent society and while the book isn’t at all about the Civil War or its aftermath, it can’t be ignored that these girls are finding their wings in a time in history when America was redefining so much of its own identity.  A lot was going on in the second half of 19th century America, including the world of literature.  Alcott’s father was a transcendentalist.  This was an American philosophy explored by several authors of the day including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.  Transcendentalists believe in the idea that people have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that transcends what we see, hear, taste, touch, and feel.  A transcendentalist believes that they can trust themselves alone to decide what is right and wrong.  This is not a philosophy I subscribe to but I recognize its place in American ideology, especially in this time period.

So what happens when a story so engrained in it’s culture is translated into another language and culture?  What must carry over into the new language in order for the story to retain its identity?  I don’t know anything about translating literary works but I do know this – there’s more to a story than just the words on a page.  If a translator can capture the life between the lines of a piece, then that is a job well done.  After all, we read literature not just to consume words strung together one after another, we read literature to capture a piece of another time or place than where we are.  Alcott’s Little Women evokes homey, cozy feelings in me as well as inspires a desire to pursue life to the fullest and do work that matters. That’s the beauty of a well-told story and each language, each culture does this in it’s own unique way.

The woman who read and loved Little Women when it first hit the bookstores is quite different from a woman like me who reads and loves it more than a century later.  But even though we have completely different lives, we both share an experience with the story.  The same should go for a translated work.  Little Women could be translated into any other language but the reader should still experience the warmth, the sense of home, and ‘Americaness’ that I imagine Alcott intended her readers to experience.

I think when groups and cultures share their stories, we not only become better intercultural communicators, but we also become more empathetic in our dealings with one another and better apt to treat each other with understanding and respect.  Translations of great works of literature, online content and conversations, and businesses can open people all over the world to wonderful experiences and add incredible depth to life.  After all, we were made to communicate with each other, right?   If the heart and soul that a writer or communicator puts into their work can be translated along with the words, translators and translation services like Smartling have extended the gift of that experience to those that the author could not originally reach.

And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing!

Happy reading y’all!

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Little Women Final Post!

Hello Readers!

I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas :).

Yesterday was the last day of our read-along!  I hope you all finished and enjoyed the book as much as I did!!  Like I mentioned before, reading it again as an adult, has been so great and the story touched my heart in ways it hadn’t in the past.

LittleWomen ButtonThe one thing I’m still not completely resigned about is the fact that Laurie and Jo don’t end up together :/.  I like Professor Bhaer, I do and I get the fact that Laurie and Jo were more like brother and sister but still… I don’t know, something inside me still wishes it should have worked out between them.  Maybe it’s because I identify with Jo’s character and would totally marry Laurie, I don’t know!  I could do a whole post on Laurie vs Fritz… Yeah, I’ll have to think about that cause I’ve never had peace about this.

I’m going to save my comments for my final review but I want to know what you thought. Did Little Women live up to your expectations?  Was it just as sweet as you remembered?

Thanks so much for joining me in closing out the year with my favorite novel!  Stay tuned for news about the giveaway for this even as well as the giveaway for those who participated in the The Count of Monte Cristo Read-Along (yes, I know I’m terribly behind! I’m sounding like a broken record :P Bear with me as I get my act together for the new year!).

Happy happy New Year!! Stay blessed and keep reading ;)

Elyssa

august meme//classics club

Classics Club members are joining in on the fun of the monthly meme questions on the brand new Classics Club website! August’s inquiry is,

What is your favorite classic book? Why?”

Despite my bookworm status, I had no trouble choosing a title. The first book that came to mind was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet read this book and plan to in the future, do NOT read further!! You have been warned ;)

When I was a little girl, my mother read me Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, which, along with the TV series, I still love. I still revisit Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books every once in a while, am captivated by Austen’s Lizzy & Darcy, and adore Montgomery’s Avonlea, but Little Women is special.

I first read the book when I was in the 8th grade, and like so many other girls have done since the book’s publication in 1868, I wished I was Jo March. I’m not much of a tomboy, but I’ve always resonated with her the most, even though, like Meg, I’m the oldest, like Amy, I have my little vanities (although I try not to flaunt them quite as shamelessly as she did!) and like Beth, my castles in the air have always been simple and unassuming. Jo has spunk and an unfiltered love of the simple things of life that makes her completely lovable

But what is most alluring about Jo is the fact that she was an aspiring writer. I started writing my first (and only) novel when I was in 8th grade so I could relate to Jo’s creative dreams. And I so wanted a little garrett space of my own to write in! Still working on that :).

“I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music.  I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.” – Jo, Chapter 13 Castles in the Air

And who doesn’t love Marmee? She always had the best advice!!

“I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg, right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it, so that when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world – marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing,–and, when well used, a noble thing,–but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

“Poor girls don’t stand any chance, Belle says, unless they put themselves forward,” sighed Meg.

“Then we’ll be old maids,” said Jo stoutly.

“Right, Jo. Better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands,” said Mrs. March decidedly. “Don’t be troubled, Meg, poverty seldom daunts a sincere lover. Some of the best and most honored women I know were poor girls, but so love-worthy that they were not allowed to be old maids. Leave these things to time; make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered you, and contented here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls: Mother is always ready to be your confidante, Father to be your friend; and both of us trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives.” – Chapter 9 Meg Goes to Vanity Fair

There’s only one thing that I’ve struggled with all these years: Laurie. It’s taken me a long time to reconcile with the fact that Jo & Laurie didn’t end up together.

“I’ve loved you ever since I’ve known you, Jo, couldn’t help it, you’ve been so good to me. I’ve tried to show it, but you wouldn’t let me; now I’m going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can’t go on so any longer.” – Chapter 35 Heartache

Agh!! Poor Teddy! He had his heart set on her :(! This chapter is most properly titled! I’m still not completely taken with Professor Bhaer. Really, I think it’s just the age difference that bugs me! I can handle Jane Eyre’s Edward Fairfax Rochester, but this was tough! However, I do understand why Jo couldn’t marry her best friend. But I suppose that’s a whole other blog post on it’s own!!

I could go on and on about my favorite chapters (like Camp Laurence & Secrets) or dig up even more memorable quotes. I could even write about the different movie adaptations (the 1949 and 1994 versions are my favorites). But unfortunately, it’s already noon and my to-do list is calling my name. Suffice it to say that Jo March is my favorite literary heroine (with Anne Shirley coming in at an extremely close second ;)) and Little Women will forever be my favorite classic book! Goodness! All this talk about the book makes me want to read it again! Good thing it’s on my Classics Club list ^.^.

“Touched to the heart, Mrs. March could only stretch out her arms, as if to gather children and grandchildren to herself, and say, with face and voice full of motherly love, gratitude, and humility–‘Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!'” – Marmee, Chapter 47 Harvest Time