Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
“’Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. ‘It’s so dreadful to be poor!’ sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.”
Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel was the first of many famous coming-of-age series.
Little Women is without a doubt Louisa May Alcott’s most successful novel, despite her numerous other works and it’s own sequels. Published in 1869, it was an immediate success because it filled the gap where non-traditional female protagonists lay. It became the epitome novel for tomboys and nonconformists at the time and as a result, it still remains popular today.
Listed as one of the best-loved novels of all times, this classics is definitely a must-read for all ages. It’s loosely based on Alcott’s own life with her three sisters. Her sister Anna became Meg, Alcott herself was Jo, Lizzie was Beth, and the youngest, May, was therefore the inspiration for Amy.
The story follows the life and trials of four sisters; Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. Their father is serving as a chaplain in the American Civil War, so the eldest two are forced to work to support their close-knit family. They struggle to survive in this new world but that doesn’t stop them from having fun. From Meg’s perfection to Jo’s rebellious streak, and Beth’s innate kindness to Amy’s spoilt attitude, they continue on with high spirits. They make unlikely friends, suffer shocking loss, and give up on dreams of fame and riches to follow their hearts instead.
Little Women is one of my favourite novels for its simplicity and warm hearted feel.
- It’s incredibly relatable. Each of the March sisters ticks at least one box for all of its readers, whether it’s Jo’s tomboyishness or Amy’s aspiring artistry. Each sister broadly sums up a different type of woman, and as a result, every single person who picks up this book will relate to one of them.
- It’s a realistic representation of growing up. The sisters face hardship and loss just as often as they find love and happiness. Not everyone has a happy ending, which is rare to find in a coming-of-age story but oh-so-refreshing.
- The reason this novel was successful, was because of its depiction of non-traditional women. Although times have changed and marriage is no longer the end game (for most of us), this feminist approach still resonates today. It shows young girls that they don’t have to settle down; it proves to them that it’s still possible to achieve their dreams no matter how outlandish or ‘manly’ they are.
- A lot of the book is slow-moving. Since it is semi-autobiographical and follows their lives, there are plenty of boring days shown. There is no clear or definite plot as a result, and the novel is structured around day-to-day stories instead.
- Individually, each character is interesting and well-developed, but together, they don’t seem like a family. They never argue realistically, and they definitely do not fight. They act more like friends than siblings. Even their physical appearances are vastly different, with Meg’s brown hair and plump stature to Amy’s golden curls and pale slender frame.
- Everything is just that little bit too perfect for their situation. The sisters are living in poverty with an absent father but everyone’s happy and unaffected. They give food to poorer families without explaining how they suddenly have enough, Jo and Amy gain success in writing and art, and everyone’s in love.
Overall, I’d give H. G. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women a four out of five. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story between four sisters trying to make their way in the world.
I’d recommend this novel to absolutely everyone. It’s well-loved for a reason, relatable and inspiring, and therefore worth every penny.
Want to read it for yourself?
Prefer to listen instead?