Little Women is my second favorite book, the actual favorite being Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. My first impression of the main character- Jo March (I watched the 1970 adaptation before ever reading the book- at the time I didn't know it was a book) wasn't a good one. I liked the fact she was a bookworm and inspiring writer like me but her somewhat unladylike brash personality and tomboyishness- along with her initial resentment towards her brother-in-law after he revealed his feelings for her older sister Meg, she seemed like a childish clod hence she really irritated me. But I got to know her better after reading the book much later on and her determination to write good stories but at the same time very anxious to provide for her family and have financial independence. I admired her, I partly related to her and she motivated me. I also saw her struggles to control her temper and be more patient, finding herself and then accepting her destiny to be Professor Bhaer's wife and run a school for boys with him; instead of the independent life of a writer she'd long envisioned.
There's Meg; the first born and beauty of the family; the mother hen of the group, very dutiful yet longing for 'the better times' and finally realizing love was far precious than excessive wealth; her rich friend Sally Moffat ended up envying her for her happy home, devoted husband and beautiful twins. Amy, the youngest; budding artist and initially a strong willed, rather self centered and selfish spoiled brat. I'll never forget the chapter where she burnt Jo's manuscript during a quarrel between them... it's a wonder she was not flogged! But later on; to my amazement and delight, she gained more maturity than I thought possible.
And there was sweet, shy Beth; the third daughter and Jo's pet- who did so much and asked for so little and the chapter 'In The Valley Of The Shadow'; Miss Alcott wrote in great detail of her death; how 'the tide went easily'; a chapter that still brings tears to my eyes whenever I read it; Beth's death was such a huge loss and it broke my heart.
It's a lovely and classic coming of age story and told in the lines of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress; showing how Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy went through several stages and encountered different challenges, lessons and experiences as they moved from girls to women. What I liked especially about this book was how despite their poverty and having to work hard half the time, was how they were able to create their own fun; led by Jo, they staged plays and formed their own version of 'The Pickwick Club' and formed their own 'post office'- their rich but lonely neigbour Laurie Laurence (who fell in love with Jo but after her wise rejection, fell in love and married Amy) joining in and playing 'brother' to them, gaining his own maturity along the way, which was good as he really needed it- he did not gain just from the girls but also from their wise and loving mother, Mrs. March who kept the family together as best as she could while Mr. March was away at the Civil War and gave her daughters and Laurie precious pieces of wisdom. At the end of the book, she and her husband saw the fruit of their labor; Meg, Jo and Amy being a huge credit to them. As for Laurie, he too had to learn some sharp lessons; including how two people who were TOO much alike like he and Jo wouldn't make a good marriage hence his better yet unlikely pairing with the matured Amy.
Little Women has two sequels; Little Men and Jo's Boys; also good reads. But Little Women to me is the best of the series- reading it makes the reader feel like a silent observer as of the March girls' lives as they follow each stage of their 'coming of age'.
Quote from book:
"My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”