Monday, 11 October 2010

"Little Women" by Louisa M. Alcott

Little Women has rated for a long time now as my favourite film, the one with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon, but I hadn’t read the book for quite a long time.  Knowing what a favourite it was with me, C. bought me a nice hardback edition for my birthday.

Firstly, here’s a quick synopsis of the story:
Set against the distant backdrop of the American Civil War, the March family used to have money but have fallen on hard times.  The four March girls are: Meg, the eldest, wishing to be grown up and to have fine things; Jo, a creative and vivacious tom-boy who craves adventure and aspires to be a writer; Beth, a quiet and loving home-bird who values the family and the comforts of home above everything; and Amy, an ambitious and vain young thing.  The story follows these four girls as they grow into adulthood, exploring the challenges they face as they overcome a character flaw on their way to becoming women.

The book has a bit more God in than the film, and there are plenty of references to placing your faith in the "friend" who will always be there to support you.  At first you wonder whether this has much relevance in such a secular society as we live in today, but it is done in such a gentle way that you don't feel preached at.  Instead I found the book resonating with me.  It isn't at all about being perfect, but about doing your best to improve yourself, about the importance of a loving home and family, about being valued for who you are and not what you have.  In my opinion these are messages we could all do with hearing a bit more often to lessen the effect of the constant bombardment of television commercials telling us that we need this item or that, or to look this way or that in order to achieve success and happiness.

A warning to those who don't know the story - as well as a light hearted touch to familial activities, sibling rivalries and the introduction of their neighbour Laurie, it does have sad bits.  I won't spoil it any more by saying how, but I cried on several occasions as I read it, despite knowing the story so well.

I love this book so much, and feel it is so relevant as a vehicle to deliver important messages, that I have ordered a nice hardback version for my baby niece's Christening.  Obviously she won't be able to read it for a while, but I'm hopeful that when she does get to it, it will become as much of a treasure for her as it is for me.

Any other dedicated Little Women fans out there? 

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