Little Women is a classic for a reason. It has been on my to read list for years, especially since I adore the movie. Fierce Jo, sweet Beth, beautiful Meg, and refined Amy. These four girls captured my heart in the film and they did even more so in the book (which is really no surprise).
Little Women follows the March family during the Civil War and after. While their father is away as a chaplain for the North, Mrs. March and her four girls do their best to live happy, productive lives in Concord, MA. The past years had seen a drastic reduction of their income, but they remain happy, caring, and thoughtful people despite their relative poverty.
My favorite character is not in fact Jo, though I love her dearly and she is often seen as the main character. Actually, my favorite character is Mrs. March. She raises four strong girls with love, despite having a husband who was gone for a very long period of time. Throughout the novel, we see her berated by family members for her choices to serve others, learn that she has tamed her own fierce tongue and instead chosen to display compassion to those who don’t always deserve it, and watch as she gently teaches her girls lessons that are both comical for the reader and deeply meaningful for the girls. Mrs. March manages to correct errant behavior in her girls while being their Marmy, someone they always look up to and respect. I think it is one of the best portrayals of motherhood out there.
While Marmy is my favorite, the March girls come closely behind. Some of the recent adaptations have chosen to really push the forward thinking of the girls, but I think the book can stand alone without addition. Each character is fierce in her own way and stands up for herself. We see within these four girls, four very different types of personalities. While we see each girl trying to fix certain aspects of it (anger, vainness, etc), we also see each being lifted up for their distinct personalities. It is a beautiful way to encourage and celebrate the difference and uniqueness of women.
This book isn’t only full of sunshine and rainbows though. And that makes it all the better. This book feels real. There is pain, heartbreak, loss, and so many real emotions brought to life. Because what family doesn’t go through these? Walking through the March’s life is truly a breath of fresh air.
As a writer, I really appreciate Jo as a character. Her struggles, joys, and choices are challenging and insightful even today. I thought the way she handled herself was at times hilarious and at others, painfully relatable.
Of course, there is also Laurie, the young, rich neighbor boy who finds himself taken in by this sweet family of little women. I enjoyed his character in the book a great deal and found him to be even funnier than in my favorite adaptation.
Overall, while the writing is easy to comprehend and simple at times, Little Women speaks to large ideas in relatable ways that left me thinking long after I closed the book. I would highly recommend the book!