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!

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

Little Women Check-In #2

Hey Dear Readers!!

LittleWomen ButtonI hope your Christmas season is going fabulously and you’re taking time to enjoy the wonder and happiness of the season!  And I really hope you’re enjoying Little Women so far! We’re about halfway done, whoot!!

I’m actually a bit behind :P. Just starting part two.  Right now, I’m off to get ready to snuggle under my covers and knock out a couple more chapters of the audiobook, which I’m seriously enjoying!  Listening to Barbra Caruso read my favorite book is like drinking hot cocoa from my favorite mug, for real!

 

Tell me how you’re coming along so far! Look forward to your thoughts :).

Have a great night!!

And happy reading ;)

 

Little Women Check-In #1

Hello Readers!

LittleWomen ButtonTime to check in and see how you all have gotten along this week!  I can’t tell you how many sweet memories this book evokes for me!  I’ve so enjoyed revisiting this part of my younger years!

As I am so strapped for time, I decided to just forget my hard copy altogether and listen to the audiobook.  It’s not what I wanted to do, but it’s better than falling completely behind!  And just an FYI for any of you whose schedules may also make it difficult to find time to curl up with this book, you can get the audiobook from Audible.com.  There are several different versions to choose from but I bought the Recorded Books production read by Barbra Caruso for about $6.00 (which is really good for an audiobook!). Caruso is one of my absolute favorite narrators and she doesn’t disappoint in this performance!  I also couldn’t help purchasing the dramatized version that I must have borrowed from the library at least 20 times when I was a child!  It’s abridged but it’s a delightful dramatization and I loved it :).  Okay, enough of the commercial, let’s talk about the book!  I’m currently on Chapter 14, Secrets.

Just as it often happens when rereading a childhood favorite, there’s so much more to appreciate as an adult.  I remember experiencing this book for the first time and thinking that Jo and Laurie were 15 years old and so grown up!  Then all of a sudden I was 20 years old and they seemed like such children.  Oh how perspective changes with age!  There are several things that I now cherish in this book that I didn’t so much when I was a young teenager.

First, I love Marmee.  She’s so sweet and full of grace and wisdom and my single self can’t help taking notes for the future.  Yet while we have this beautiful picture of motherly love, we find that she also struggles with personal weaknesses just as her daughters do but has learned to grapple with them with patience one day at a time.  So far, I think my favorite Marmee moment is from Chapter 9, Meg Goes to Vanity Fair. I quoted these very words in my post for last year’s August Meme, but if you’ll allow me, they’re worth re-posting:

“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.”

Second, I truly love Jo and Laurie’s relationship.  They’re so funny and quirky and comfortable together and they’re perfectly suited chums.  Jo with her boyish awkwardness as she tries to figure out how to be a lady without losing herself in the process and Laurie’s lonely restlessness as he comes to terms with duty and responsibility.  All the while they play and swap adventures and share a carefree adolescence.  I think that, while Jo is completely oblivious to any romance in her life, by Chapter 14, Laurie’s affection for his best friend is starting to change into something more than just camaraderie.  If he hasn’t loved her from the first, I think he’s beginning to.  I’ll leave it there for now ;).

I hope you don’t mind that my comments will always lean more towards Jo because I always identified with her!  I’d love to know which sister you most relate to!

So far, my favorite chapters are as they have always been –

The Laurence Boy
Jo Meets Apollyon
Meg Goes to Vanity Fair
Camp Laurence
Secrets

What about you?

What are your favorite parts so far?  Is this a reread for you or your first time? I look forward to reading your thoughts.

And as always, happy reading!

Elyssa :)

an old fashioned girl | book review

The Classics Club has just finished it’s 3rd Classics Spin and I am so thrilled I ended up with the book I did cause it was such a lovely read! *happy sigh!*

781557An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

Rating: 4.0 – 4.0

My Thoughts:

I think I was in Jr. High when I first read this book.  Reading it again as an adult was a completely different experience and I think I appreciated it so much more the second time around.

Alcott tells the story of 14-year old Polly Martin, a simple, wholesome country girl who is introduced to the fashionable world of her friend Fanny Shaw.  Her old-fashioned manners, notions, and morals clash with the fast, giddy, party-going, boy-chasing girls in Fanny’s circle of friends.  Despite all of Fanny’s trying to make a fashionable young lady out of Polly, Polly stays the sweet, innocent girl whose warm heart and simple ways unwittingly bring sunshine and peace to the Shaw household.

This piece was originally a magazine serial of only six chapters but Alcott later continued the story with the chapter “Six Years Later” when Polly is a young woman of twenty, bound and determined to make her life one of useful purpose.

Being an old-fashioned girl myself, I could totally identify with Polly.  While fashions and styles may change over the decades, our desires and behaviors don’t alter all that much.  There are still high fashions, fads, and alluring pop culture.  Relationships are still formed around the fluff of what looks and feels good and parties still last until dawn.  I think Polly’s success in staying true to her values and goals and seeing how her sweet character changed the lives of those around her makes the story so sweet and heartwarming and reassurance that it’s all worth it in the long run!  Definitely worth a personal copy on my own shelf!

It’s a simple story so I won’t share anymore about the plot but here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Young men often laugh at the sensible girls whom they secretly respect, and affect to admire the silly ones whom they secretly despise, because earnestness, intelligence, and womanly dignity are not the fashion.”

“…a principle that can’t bear being laughed at, frowned on, and cold-shouldered, isn’t worthy of the name.”

“…with a very earnest prayer, Polly asked for the strength of an upright soul, the beauty of a tender heart, the power to maker her life a sweet and stirring song, helpful while it lasted, remembered when it died.”

I recommend this book if you’re in the mood for something on the sweet and sentimental side.

“I’m old-fashioned but I don’t mind it. That’s how I want to be as long as you agree to stay old-fashioned with me!” – Johnny Mercer/Jerome Kern

Little Women Read Along Announcement

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Mark your reading calendars!!  Join me during the Christmas season in reading my favorite classic, Little Women!  In answering the first CC Meme question last year I blogged about how much I love this story.  Ever since, I’ve been wanting to read it again.  Well, December is going to be it :).  It felt like a great, homey choice for the most wonderful time of the year!

Leave a comment below if you’d like to sign up.  I’ll be posting details in the next several weeks.

Happy reading y’all!